Fears for future of Blyth town centre retail after independent shop announces closure

An independent retailer in Blyth town centre has announced it is no longer financially viable and will close.
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ImpressU, which sells women’s fashion and accessories, revealed on its Facebook page that it would be permanently closing in the coming weeks.

Shop owner Joanne Trewick attributed a decline in customers to Market Place construction work, which she believes has reduced footfall.

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She said: “I am obviously devastated. I have been doing this for about 15 years now and I have had this shop open for three. It has always been my passion.

ImpressU on Market Street has announced it will close in the coming weeks. (Photo by ImpressU)ImpressU on Market Street has announced it will close in the coming weeks. (Photo by ImpressU)
ImpressU on Market Street has announced it will close in the coming weeks. (Photo by ImpressU)

“My sales have dropped dramatically since the work started on the Market Place. As soon as those hoardings went up in September you can see a dramatic difference in my sales.

“We had a little boost at Christmas, which was brilliant, and since then it has not picked up at all.”

Regeneration projects in the town, part of the £90m Energising Blyth programme, include a cultural venue and cinema on Market Place, public realm improvements, and new further education facilities at the port and at the Keel Row Shopping Centre site.

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The departure of big name retailers like Bonmarché and New Look after Keel Row shut in February has also contributed to reducing passing customers for local businesses in the town, according to Joanne.

She said: “The key stores have left the town, which was a big pull for people to come down and have a walk around the centre.

“With the closure of [Keel Row] I have seen a dramatic decrease in visitors to Blyth.

“I do not blame them. There is actually nothing to come down to Blyth for. There are no shops here.

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“I do not blame it solely on these things. I know the economy as a whole is very poor at the moment and all high streets are struggling, but I think we have had a double whammy here.”

Joanne added that she “cannot see it getting better for at least five years” and said: “I agree that there should be a good mix of social and retail to get people into town but I think what has happened here in Blyth, they have tipped the scale too far the other way and all the shops have gone.

“They are not going to have that mix even when all the work is completed.”

Since the closure was announced, over 150 comments from saddened ImpressU customers have been posted on the shop’s Facebook page wishing Joanne well.

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The 58-year-old said: “When you end up closing a business you do have all these feelings that go around. Are you a failure? Have I let people down?

“Some of the nice comments do make you feel better. It makes me think I have done well over the years. I have served the community.”

Joanne, who is from Blyth, called for Northumberland County Council to do more to support local businesses, and fears more independent shops could close.

She said: “I know most of the businesses in Blyth, and the business owners, and I know that it has affected them as well. I think it is a strong possibility that you will see more closures.”

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Joanne also said she plans to take some time off before trying to find a job, which she believes will leave her financially better off and under less pressure than running a business even at minimum wage.

Ian Levy, Conservative MP for Blyth Valley, claimed Blyth had been “neglected for years” by Labour and said: “It is always sad when a well known Blyth business closes and I wish Joanne all the best in the future.

“Town centres across the country are changing with the continued growth of online shopping and increased competition from web giants like Amazon.

“It has been a major priority for me since being elected in 2019 to bring unprecedented investment from the government and give people reasons to visit the town centre and support our local businesses.

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“It is disappointing when I hear Labour town and county councillors talking the town down. It is important we all work together to support our local independent businesses.”

Labour councillor Kath Nisbet, who represents Croft ward in Blyth, said she was “very upset” that ImpressU was closing and admitted it was “a possibility” other shops could follow.

She said: “I would love to see more support. I would like to see their business rates or something cut to help them out.

“I have been noted to say that I am bringing Blyth down but I am not. I love my town. It just upsets you to see what is actually going on.

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“There are some good things happening. Let’s hope it does improve things, but at the moment I am very concerned. I hope they can prove me wrong. I am very upset we are losing shops in Blyth.”

Cllr Nisbet added: “I also blame online shopping as well as everything else, but this regeneration does not seem to be helping smaller businesses.”

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson said regenerating Blyth town centre was a “key priority” that will “ensure that it is a fantastic place to live, work and visit,” and that the council is in contact with local businesses.

They said: “We are disappointed to hear that this business will be closing and we will be contacting them directly to see if there is anything further we can do to assist them.

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“Whilst these works are taking place, we are working hard to keep any disruption to a minimum. Access is being maintained throughout for all businesses with free car parking widely available.

“The weekly markets continue to operate on Market Place and we work closely with Blyth Town Council to support them in ensuring that town centre events continue attracting visitors into the town.

“We are promoting the area with business-focused signage and our ‘Shop Local, Shop Northumberland’ campaign urges residents and visitors to shop locally.”

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