The proposed closure of a popular Sutton Coldfield store has raised concerns that the city could lose a ‘lynchpin’ store.
But landlords have offered a lifeline that could mean saving the shop.
Wilco confirmed it plans to close 15 stores nationwide that have ‘adverse leases’, including the Red Rose Center in Sutton, The Fort in Ardington and three Midlands outlets at the Kingfisher Center in Redditch .
The homeware and home goods retailer said it was ‘reviewing its store portfolio thoroughly’ and was scheduled to close stores if the lease was expiring and ‘favorable terms could not be agreed upon’. .
A Wilco spokesman said: “The business has several ‘legacy’ locations and has identified some old lease agreements.
“Landlord relationships are changing and now is the time to build a strong foundation and open dialogue with all landlords to enable Wilco to restructure the portfolio.”
The announcement prompted concerns including the city councilor of Sutton Coldfield Town Center, David Pearce (Sutton Trinity, Conn.), fearing damage to the Red Rose Center’s main outlet.
Clare Pearce said: “I see Wilco as a linchpin. I know the library is there but I think the shop is important enough.
“The site is owned by Birmingham City Council, but Sainsbury’s is the tenant who assigns it to Wilco.
“I am worried that if the shop goes down we will have more free space in the building.
“Rosie’s site has already been demolished. The city council owns the Red Rose Center. And M&G Real Estate owns Gracechurch Center.
“I am meeting with city councilors and officials to find out who will take the first step in the town centre.”
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Readers of BirminghamLive echoed Kler Pearce’s concerns.
Mark Homer said: “It’s very hard to make retail stores profitable these days.” But Gene McKeever responded and said: “Solihull manages, it’s a pleasure to shop there.”
Richard Bryant said: “It would be a shame if they leave, but maybe if conditions are better they will consider moving to one of the other vacant units in town?”
And Rachel Hawkeye added: “Can’t believe they’re shutting down Sutton and Fort! Sutton’s shop should be free of rent. This is a terrible site!”
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Roger Jenkins of the GMB union said Wilco’s plan to close 15 stores was “another nail in the coffin of the High Street” and called on councils and landlords to “review commercial leases and offer lower rents”.
He said: “Empty high streets and shopping centers are in no one’s interest and with 400 shops closing in a week, it is inevitable – unless the cost of the premises can be brought down.
“The GMB will now be meeting with Wilco members to discuss our next steps.”
While Birmingham City Council, the site’s principal landowner, said Wilco was the ‘key’ for its Red Rose Center site, but said the terms and conditions of its lease were down to Sainsbury’s.
A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: “We value Wilco Stores as the premier occupant of Red Rose Shopping Center and a contributor to the wider Sutton Coldfield retail centre, and would love that it remains.
“However, although the council is the freeholder of the shopping centre, Sainsbury’s is the direct landowner of Wilco and therefore all discussions regarding rental levels have taken place between those two parties.
“However, if either side contacts, the Council will be happy to facilitate a comprehensive discussion with both sides.”
But Sainsbury’s offered some hope of a U-turn in the closure plan, saying: “We understand that the past two years have been challenging for many of our tenants.
“We are committed to supporting them where we can and we are in contact with Wilco about a new lease.”
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