Shoppers react as town’s branch of Homebase is earmarked for closure

Homebase Store in Ipswich. Picture: Jessica Hill

Homebase Store in Ipswich. Picture: Jessica Hill - Credit: Archant

People living in Ipswich have been reacting to the news that the town’s Homebase store has been earmarked for closure.

Lee Goldsmith and April Simmons outside Homebase in Ipswich. Picture: Jessica Hill

Lee Goldsmith and April Simmons outside Homebase in Ipswich. Picture: Jessica Hill - Credit: Archant

The store, on Felixstowe Road in Warren Heath, is one of 42 stores that the home improvement chain wants to close as part of a restructure that puts 1,500 jobs at risk.

Sales at Homebase were pummelled by the Beast from the East as the retailer was forced to close stores in the face of extreme weather, and even the recent warm weather dash for barbecues and garden furniture was not enough to change the fortunes of the struggling retailer.

April Simmons, 28, from Newton Road in Ipswich, said she will be sad to see the shop go – but claimed their marketing strategy has gone downhill lately.

“They have broken pots on display. Their staff are very knowledgeable, but I think as a brand, their presentation is not up to scratch.”

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Ms Simmons was out shopping at the store on Wednesday with Lee Goldsmith, 35, also of Newton Road, who was more disappointed to hear that the store will soon be no more. “It’s a shame, I’ll be sad to see it go,” he said. “Homebase is always good value compared to similar chains.”

Peter Macrobery, from Essex, said “younger people don’t do DIY these days” – and that this lies at the root of the company’s problems.

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“The government tells us that plumbing and electrical work should be done by certified specialists these days,” said the 65-year-old. “My young nephew can’t even put up a shelf. It’s only older people like me who seem to enjoy DIY now.

“But because people are having to retire later in life, they have less time for home improvements.”

The Homebase store closures follow the sale of the business earlier this year by its former Australian owner Wesfarmers to Hilco – a retail turnaround specialist – for £1. Homebase was bought by Wesfarmers for £340 million in 2016.

Wesfarmers is known for its Bunnings chain in Australia, and attempted to import the home improvement brand to the UK by converting a host of Homebase stores into the Bunnings format.

However, the strategy ended in disaster. Prior to the Hilco takeover, Homebase had 250 stores at its peak and 12,000 staff.

Jay Harvey, a 68-year-old retiree from Nacton in Ipswich, noticed that Homebase has recently changed its product range, following its takeover by Bunnings.

“Its more like a builders merchants now,” he said. “I don’t think they offer the wide range of choice that people are after.”

Suffolk’s political representatives have also expressed disappointment to hear that Homebase is shutting up shop in Ipswich.

Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Economic Development, said: “We will work closely with Homebase to see what, if anything, we can do to safeguard the local store and jobs.

“The economy is this area is the strongest in Suffolk and continues to grow, so hopefully Homebase will see the potential of keeping this site open for the future.”

The Warren Heath store is in the constituency of Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who said: “I don’t know the reason particularly, but recognise the tough retail market that exists. It will be a significant loss of choice for customers in Ipswich and surrounding area.”

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