Worst place to shop?

This is old news now but I wrote this last week and haven’t had a chance to get it online before now.

New and old don't necessarily sit well together

I read an article on The Independent’s website over the weekend, about terrible places in the UK to shop. Dudley, apparently, is the worst and London is the best place to go for retail therapy.


None of that is surprising, London is a shopping addicts paradise, but I think they must have limited the survey that the list is based on to towns over a certain population size, because Immingham should definitely be on that list.

A lot has changed in Immingham in the last thirty years, or so it seems. When I was young the shops in the civic centre were diverse. We had a mix of national and local businesses: newsagents, supermarket, clothes shops, jewellers, stationers, fruit and veg shop, shoe shop, pharmacies, three or four banks, a bakers, opticians and solicitors. In the middle was a bird cage full of budgies. There was also a weekly market.

Twenty years ago, the market went, then over the next fifteen years, the other shops started to leave, until we were left with two locally owned shops (a freezer shop and a sandwich shop) and several chain stores – a Co-op, a pound shop, bakers, several betting shops, two chemists, three charity shops, the opticians, one bank and the job centre.

The landlord, away in Manchester, apparently isn’t very responsive. I’ve been told that when a repair needs doing it takes ages for someone to be sent, they bodge the job and then go again. The rent goes up regularly. People can’t open a small local business because they can’t afford to. The empty units were terribly depressing, but the multiple betting shops, dilapidated market place, used as a storage yard for council vehicles, and questionable people hanging about, was worse.

Change has come. It might be good, it might be bad.

Early this year things started to be pulled down, and moved around. The town and county councils and the local housing association have moved in to the civic centre building along with the town museum and municipal toilets. The sports centre and one of the three banks of shops have been demolished to make way for a larger car park and new glass-fronted buildings. At the front, where the civic meets the main road, the green has been paved and a shiny new glass walled building has been built. It all looks very spiffy.  The old Co-op is in the process of being turned in to an Aldi. Farmfoods is raking it in at the minute, because other than Herons, and a small (expensive!) Sainsbury’s, there’s nowhere else to shop if you can’t get to Grimsby.

The first new tenants start moving in to the new buildings later this month. There will be a B&M’s, Subway, a few others I’ve forgotten, and eventually a Tesco. In a town which has next to nothing this has been welcomed. The shopping centre needed a revamp and the extra businesses might bring more jobs. The Job Centre certainly hope so (it’s a high unemployment area). The area certainly looks better, even if it is still, partly, a building site at the minute.

The two locally owned businesses – the freezer shop and the sandwich shop – are in danger of being pushed out by the multinationals. The excitement of a Subway, open seven days a week, might just be too much for the sandwich shop which is only open for a few hours Monday to Friday to compete with. Tesco is not cheap but Aldi is; the locally owned freezer shop may struggle to keep all their business. If the rent goes up…
Taking their time.

There have been a lot of delays with the building work, right from the start. This is mainly because Tesco’s were faffing about. They kept changing the start date and the date they would be opening their store – the reason all the work has been done in the first place – which has really left the people of Immingham without suitable shopping facilities. And of course there is the lack of a sports centre anymore. It wasn’t perfect, sometimes the roof leaked and it was cold, but it was home to the archery, tennis, badminton, squash and football clubs; now there is nothing. As yet there has been no suggestion of a replacement sports centre.

Change needed to happen; Immingham was dying.

The problem is, instead of the mix of local and multinational businesses we had thirty years ago, it’s going to be just like every other town with all the same shops, no individuality or space for the unusual and unique.

I’m not sure how long those great panes of glass are going to last either…


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