One of Blackpool’s best-known independent fashion store owners says retail in the city center needs a radical overhaul
The doors to the Blueberries designer clothing store on Topping Street are set to close next month after 37 years of keeping looks smart and fashion-conscious.
Sarah McConville, who owned the store with her mother Joan Kershaw, said repeated episodes of roadworks in the city, combined with a lack of cheap parking and a change in people’s shopping habits, meant that the The business could no longer continue.
Sarah said her mother’s declining health and the catastrophic drop in the number of people coming to town during coronavirus lockdowns finally made her think it was time to take a step back.
The store was founded by Joan Kershaw in 1984 and was originally on Grosvenor Street before growth prompted a move to Cedar Square and then to the three-story building it currently occupies on Topping Street.
But now the building is being advertised for rental in the hope that it can become a restaurant.
Sarah said Main Street has become a difficult place to trade, and Blueberries’ online sales have kept the Topping Street store afloat for many years.
She said: “We are all very sad to have to close our doors, but now is the time.
“We have received so many beautiful messages from customers since we announced the closure and I want to thank all of the customers for their support.
“One of the big reasons Blueberries has been successful for 37 years is the absolutely amazing staff we have, many who have worked for us for years and current Director Michelle Dickinson has been with us for over 17 years.
“I don’t think there are a lot of independent businesses that will have been doing it as long as we have in the downtown area.”
But she said the number of shoppers on Topping Street had plunged in recent years.
She said: “There just isn’t enough footfall for a business like ours in Blackpool.
“Since Topping Street lost its parking on the street and they put a bus line on the road, things have changed. It was the death knell.
“We started our business online, which has helped us stay downtown for years, but now we see with the closure of Debenhams that there are few good downtown retail stores.
“When we moved to Topping Street 20 years ago we were told it would be a great place for independents, but it never happened. Yes, work was done to improve the city, but that meant when the lockdown was relaxed we still couldn’t open as the roads were closed for such long periods of time.
“We have suffered from so many road closures over the years for various reasons.
“It’s not just because of the blockages. What Covid has done has highlighted the deprivation here and the city is no longer as attractive to locals.
“Myself and my mother, who is a partner in the company, have been great advocates for Blackpool over the years.
“When we started 37 years ago we were instrumental in bringing all the big names to Blackpool, Helmut Lang, Paul Smith, Dolce and Gabbana, Versace.
“All of our customers who were coming to Blackpool, Lytham and St Annes, Cleveleys, all around Fylde etc, no longer come to the city center.
“It’s hard to negotiate, parking is too expensive. Nothing has been done to make the city attractive to the locals and it is very sad.
“They’re digging the road again on Talbot Road at the end of Topping Street. We were told that part of Topping was going to be redone due to issues with the buses going down here.
“With all the recent road works, retail businesses have not received any financial assistance from the council.
“After the lockdown was eased, things just haven’t improved at all.
“A lot of visitors may come to the Promenade and the attractions, but the people of Blackpool don’t come back to shopping in the center because there isn’t so much to do. Something has to be done for the future, there has to be a new plan.
She said that due to the type of exclusive deals with top designer brands, this meant that it was not possible to easily move the business to another area of Fylde and simply cannot make it. an online business without having a physical store.
“My mother Joan, who has been in the business for 37 years, now has Alzheimer’s disease. She worked until confinement, despite her condition.
“It has been his absolute life and passion, serving and caring for customers. Now, due to the virus, she cannot be able to return to the store.
She said the store’s heyday was in the ’80s and’ 90s when Blackpool stood out with its popular nightclub scene that attracted people from all over the North West as well as residents of Fylde. She said, “We’ve had so many comments about the importance of blueberries in their teenage years.
“Blackpool had a massive club scene, everyone came to buy their Patrick Cox shoes and get their gear out.
“Everyone would go out two or three times a week and people would get dressed to go out. People don’t do that anymore, times have changed.
“We have three generations of families who have shopped with us, we’ve been here for so long!”
She said the building is now for rent and Blueberries is in the process of closing a sale.
She added, “Topping Street has always been a great place to eat and maybe it could become a dining district in the future and this building would make a fantastic restaurant. We are having a sale throughout July and anticipate that we will be closing in August.
“We’re just incredibly sad to have to close, but the saddest part is Blackpool city center. Something drastically needs to be done regarding the retail business here.
Councilor Mark Smith, a cabinet member of the Blackpool Council for Business, Business and Job Creation, said: “Pandemic lockdowns and level restrictions over the past 15 months have had a significant impact on l retail economy across the UK.
“Some road works in the city center are directly linked to improving the street scene in areas such as Topping Street, where significant investments have been made in new storefronts and public space.
“Municipal parking fees have been frozen since 2017 and we are offering discounts to help boost downtown traffic during key bargaining times. “
Blackpool High Street will be closed to traffic for six months from Monday 5th July …
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