‘A very painful decision’ - Winch & Blatch to close three of its Sudbury shops
PUBLISHED: 12:02 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:16 14 August 2020
One of Sudbury’s oldest businesses is leaving the high street with 46 job losses due to increased costs combined with the coronavirus pandemic.
Family-run Winch & Blatch will close three of its four town centre stores in December, but its homeware outlet at 40 King Street has been taken on by Townrow Department Stores, which is retaining the six members of staff.
Winch & Blatch, which can trace its origins back to a drapery business in the 1850s, had been trying to sell its menswear store in Market Hill and Fashion Gallery in King Street for over a year in order to consolidate the business.
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Winch & Blatch directors Judith and Richard Blatch said it had been a “very difficult decision” to close the remaining three stores, but it was due to “the substantial increases in the costs of running our stores, combined with the coronavirus pandemic, making it impossible for us to find a way forward to enable the business to trade successfully”.
Mrs Blatch said: “It’s widely known the high street is in difficult times and during the 11-week shutdown we lost about £800,000 of turnover. We just felt we couldn’t carry on.”
She added: “Luckily, out of this is the fact Townrow have taken on the homeware store, which is excellent news, but sadly for the rest of the business we have had to take a very, very painful decision.”
Townrow, which has stores in Frinton, Maldon and St Ives (Cambridgeshire), took over the homeware store on August 10.
Mrs Blatch said: “Townrow Stores are an excellent match for both Winch & Blatch and for Sudbury. They are another family business who share our core values and business views. We wish them every success in the future.”
Edward Townrow, managing director of Townrow Department Stores, which has been trading since 1871, said: “Both Townrow and Winch & Blatch are long-standing family-run businesses with the same core values.
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“The acquisition of the homewares store in Sudbury is a fantastic strategic and geographical match for our business.
“We are very optimistic regarding the future of the high street in Sudbury, and in particular the reopening of Gainsborough’s House which we believe will bring more people into the town centre.
“Due to the current situation we are seeing a very strong trend towards more home working and less time spent commuting. This trend we believe will continue and have a very positive effect on market towns and in particular Sudbury town centre.”
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Mrs Blatch said the decision to close three of her stores was “a really sad day for Sudbury” but she did share in Mr Townrow’s optimism for the future of Sudbury high street, with the benefits of more people working from home and the plans for Gainsborough’s House.
Mrs Blatch said the government’s furlough scheme and business rates relief had been “terrific support” during the coronavirus crisis, but moving forward the government needed to tackle business rates that are “stifling the high street”.
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She added: “The Blatch family have been committed to serving the people of Sudbury for 75 years and thank our loyal and hard-working staff and customers for their tremendous support over very many years and even more so in recent weeks which have been difficult due to the current pandemic.”
She said it was currently business as normal at all four stores - and there is always a chance a buyer may come forward for the three set to close - and both Townrows and Winch & Blatch look forward to the continued support of all their customers.
John McMillan, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said it was “tremendous” news one of the stores had been taken over bearing in mind the current state of the economy and high street retail, but added: “We are really feeling very much for Winch & Blatch.”
Only 7% of shops in Sudbury are empty, Mr McMillan said, which was relatively low when compared with the rest of the country.
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