Chorley's Market Walk extension is still a centre of attraction despite economic woes
We’re backing Chorley . . .
That appears to be the message from retailers who are not letting the coronavirus crisis put them off launching in the town’s Market Walk extension.
Chorley Council, which owns the centre, has confirmed it is still in talks with retailers looking to move into the remaining units.
Several units are still vacant. Yet regardless of the current economic woes, interest in them remains firm.
Councillor Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council: “Despite the current pandemic, there are a number of prospective tenants interested in the remaining units at Market Walk and we continue to be in discussions with them about this.
“I think this shows that people still have confidence in our local economy at such a challenging time. We’ll be sure to let everyone know when we have any further news.”
He added: “It’s been a difficult time for businesses, so we are thrilled that there is still a significant interest from retailers and leisure businesses in coming to Chorley.
"There has been considerable interest from a number of potential tenants in the four remaining units in the Market Walk extension. We’re currently looking at how we can reconfigure these units to make them work for the interested businesses.
"We’re confident that our discussions with these potential tenants will lead to positive outcomes for at least three of these units in the near future which will mean that the new part of Market Walk will have an occupancy rate of around 92 per cent. We look forward to being able to share news with you on this when we can.
"Within the original part of Market Walk there is just one store that has closed for business prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We’re supporting businesses in their recovery from the pandemic and also actively engaging with them regarding government guidance, plus implementing measures in the town centre so that residents feel safe when they shop local.”
Malcolm Allen, chair of Chorley Traders’ Alliance, said: “If the council are still getting interest in the units and are in coversations, it’s excellent news for Chorley, while other towns are seeing various businesses closed down.
“It means retailers are confident in the future of Chorley.
“It’s good news for the town. It should boost the smaller traders that want to start a business, and there’s a couple open in the last few weeks or are about to open - it’s confidence in Chorley.
“You have a look at the restaurants that have opened recently, or are about to open.
“The council have helped these micro bars by providing areas outside the premises so people can social distance and have a drink.
“There’s confidence, but we have to be extra careful because we’re surrounded by towns that have got lockdown or measures in place,”
As regards the Market Walk extenion, Mr Allen thinks the council just scraped in in time with its completion, otherwise things could have been worse.
“Marks and Spencers are accelerating their closure programme,” he said.
“We just got in in the nick of time with getting it open.”
In February, the council confirmed it was in talks with Sports Direct.
Councillor Bradley said at the time that ‘no agreement’ had been signed with the company but that discussions ‘were ongoing’.
The Guardian has approached Sports Direct for a comment.
Meanwhile, whoever comes to the extension will join other occupants that include an M&S Foodhall, six screen Reel Cinema, crazy golf course, bowling alley and Loungers Restaurant
National restaurant chain Loungers opened its Calico Lounge in January.
Occupying the stand-alone unit within the Market Walk extension it has created 25 local jobs.
At the back end of last year, the council revealed the development was already making big impact on visitor numbers.
Footfall in Chorley town centre was up significantly during the first week of December compared to the same week in previous years.
Visitor numbers increased more than six percent, with Tuesday (market day) and Saturday being the more popular days for shoppers.
The increase came a week after the opening of the M&S Foodhall, the first business to open in the new hopping centre extension.