Winch & Blatch announces plans to sell off two of four sites in Sudbury due to decline in sales
Sudbury department store Winch & Blatch has announced it is preparing to sell two of its four sites in the town, blaming reduced sales and footfall for the decision.
But bosses at the family-run, independent firm say this does not represent the beginning of the end for the long-running business.
Director Judith Blatch said: “We are consolidating our business by putting the freeholds up for sale of our premises.
“I am sure this will generate speculation that Winch & Blatch is for sale, but it is merely a restructuring of our departments so that our floorspace reflects reduced sales and footfall on the high street.
“We have already consolidated our staff numbers by natural wastage.”
The freeholds up for sale include the menswear store on Market Hill and the fashion gallery in King Street.
Mrs Blatch added: “The menswear building will be for sale first, probably as early as some time this week, or the week after.”
Winch & Blatch started as traditional draper’s and silk mercer’s shops back in 1850, before adopting the current business name in 1945.
John McMillan, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce said the news reflected what was happening up and down the country.
He said: “It’s always disappointing when a store has to close, but I’m afraid it does, unfortunately, reflect the national trend of shops closing.
“We mustn’t forget that there has also been a huge expansion of shops over the last 30 to 40 years. With Winch & Blatch, this takes them back to what they had originally in the town.”
Speaking about the state of the town in general, Mr Macmillan added: “In Sudbury, we have been managing to fill the units when they become empty; the latest is the Hughes store, which is going to be a hairdressers.”
Sudbury town clerk Jacqui Howells said: “It is very disappointing to hear of the closure of two of the Winch & Blatch department shops.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing this time and time again due to the increase in internet shopping. It is imperative that the public supports the remaining Winch & Blatch sites.”
She added: “Sudbury Town Council is working in partnership with Babergh District Council on plans to revitalise our town centre and recently just missed out on government funding from the Future High Streets Fund.
“Unfortunately, or fortunately, compared to other similar size towns, Sudbury is faring relatively well, meaning that it is very difficult to successfully bid for funding.
“However, following the development of Babergh’s Vision for Prosperity and the town council’s Ambitions for Sudbury Town Centre documents – both of which can be found on the town council’s website – plans are progressing on work to ensure the future vitality of the town centre.”
According to a recent survey of 6,682 businesses across 120 high streets in Britain, retail now takes up only 30.32 per cent of the high street, with many national brands favouring an online presence.
The research – undertaken by Together Financial Services – suggests that local independent shops are important, with more than one in three people wanting to see a return to smaller, local shops in their town.