Chelmsford then and now
The curse of High Chelmer seems to continue. As anyone who has read this blog recently will know, the Chelmsford shopping centre has already seen several shops closing in the past couple of months, with Hawkins Bazaar and the Sony shop to name but two.
This weekend Millets had signs declaring that they were having a closing down sale which seemed over this morning with the shop being completely emptied out already. On the outside of the centre, Market Square Cafe has also posted up a notice confirming that it too has shut.
Both Millets and the cafe were on the West Mall part of the centre, which has been the location of most of the recently-closed stores. With rumours that Game are struggling too, that could be another shop in the same area that’s under threat, and the arrival of Primark really can’t seem to come soon enough for High Chelmer.
Thankfully Primark seems well underway, and you really have to see the size of the refurbishment works to believe it. Even a quick stroll around the back of the centre reveals what a monumental change is being undertaken, and the new map that is on display in the centre square opposite Starbucks also reflects how big the store will be compared to those surrounding it.
I still suspect (without any proof it must be said) that High Chelmer are whacking up rents in the centre to take advantage of the increase in traffic that the new store will bring, but for now the centre seems more and more empty.
The Meadows have also submitted plans to revamp their entrances (I know a few girls who could do with a similar undertaking to be honest), which will hopefully look as good as the High Chelmer makeover that took place a few years back, though Madhouse still look likely to leave.
In the middle of town, the latest rumours are that Debenhams - whose position takes up the vast majority of one side of the High Street - is said to be struggling, with a deal rumoured to be on the table from John Lewis who at the moment are looking to build a smaller John Lewis At Home store on the proposed new retail section in Bond Street.
The deal, supposedly, is a straight swap - Debenhams to move to the smaller (and less expensive store), with John Lewis opening a main store in place of the existing Debenhams store. Easy, huh? It would mean the end of an era for the town, though, as Debenhams have been in the same place for over a century, taking into account their takeover of Bonds who were there originally.
In fact, while I think of it, there’s a great site that documents information from 1986 which is run on the BBC site. Called Domesday, it was a way of archiving the everyday lives of people at the time and is well worth a look - BBC Domesday - Chelmsford - I’d love to see this sort of thing regularly updated.