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Issue 294 – Town centre supermarket to close

Frome’s branch of Somerfield, in the town centre, is to close in April, leaving the store’s 31 employees without their jobs.

The Co-operative Group, which recently took over the store, announced its closure last week.
The closure of the store on Saturday 3rd April will mean the loss of seven full-time and 24 part-time jobs. The Co-operative says that every effort will be made to redeploy staff to other Co-operative-owned stores in the area.
According to a spokersperson for the Co-operative, the store’s lease was due for renewal and a rise in the rental costs would have made the store a loss-maker.
The spokeswoman said, “The closure decision was taken with the greatest reluctance and much regret, and was due to the store’s trading performance.
“The Co-operative Group is committed to community retailing in the region and last year invested several million pounds in refitting and converting local stores to offer modern shopping facilities and comprehensive ranges.”
Martin Short, president of Frome Chamber of Commerce said, “It was a big shock to hear that Somerfield would be closing. We were expecting it to be rebranded as a Co-operative store.
“I think it is very sad news for the town because the community has lost such a useful supermarket. It is also very sad for the staff who have been loyal to Somerfield and the previous supermarkets there over many years. They must feel very uncertain about the future.
“I know that the owners of the precinct are already in talks with prospective tenants for the unit. It’s a prime commercial and retail unit in the town and should be attractive to a quality retailer.
“The Chamber of Commerce hopes that the owner of the precinct will be successful in securing a good tenant for the unit and we would hope that the new tenant will be able to re-employ.
“Another supermarket may have a different approach to that of Somerfield and perhaps that would be of benefit to the town.”

Hopeful

Gareth Hunt, managing director of Maybrook Properties Ltd, which owns the Westway precinct said, “We are currently talking to another national retailer and hopefully something will come of that. Obviously it is disappointing that Somerfield is leaving the scheme.
“We were quite surprised as we had agreed a new lease with them in 2008 but then Co-op took over and backtracked somewhat, so we spent the last year trying to come to an agreement and conceding many of the points that they were asking for. We did try very hard to meet their demands which is why we were surprised by this decision.
“Having said that, Westway is the main centre for the town and it has a lot of car parking with trolley access, and is perfect for supermarket operations.”

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