Croydon’s anticipation for Westfield has already lasted longer than Beckett ever intended anyone to wait for Godot.
And meanwhile, in the absence of the £1.4billion retailing Nirvana promised by council CEO Jo Negrini and the suits at Hammerson and Westfield, another fixture on Croydon’s high street is about to go the same way as Turtle’s and Allders.
Millets, the camping and outdoor wear store, has been based on at the junction of Surrey Street and the High Street for almost a century. For so long, in fact that the place even became known as “Milletts’ Corner”.
But from the end of April, it will be Millets no more.
The retailers trace some of the company history back to Croydon, where Morris Millett established his haberdashery in 1920. Another clothing retail business called Millets had been set up in Southampton and Bristol at the end of the 19th century, and there was even a third version of Millets, run by a cousin of Croydon’s Morris.
The separate enterprises all came together, finally, in 1986, at some point along the way dropping the second T in the name Millets.
By 1996, the company had 158 stores around the country, but a series of acquisitions and mergers since has seen Millets taken over by Blacks Leisure and then, in 2012 after the 208-store company had gone into administration, it was bought for £20million by JD Sports.
According to reports at that time, “JD said it was unable to guarantee the future of all of the shops or 3,500 employees at Blacks”.
And the Torygraph even reported that, to secure the deal, JD Sports “beat off Peter Jones, the entrepreneur”. The things this high-finance types get up to…
“We will evaluate the performance of each store in the coming months in order to reach a conclusion about the number of stores which will be retained long-term,” was the message from JD Sports head office in 2012.
Five years on and from 208 shops, there are now just 97 high street stores in the Millets-Black chain. And there will be at least one fewer from the end of April.
No one in the Croydon branch of Millets would speak to Inside Croydon for fear of “getting a disciplinary”, and JD Sports’ press officer failed to return our calls.
But we understand that the plan is for Millets-branded store to cross Croydon High Street, to where Blacks currently trades. Both shops have had closing down sales signs in their windows for the past week.
What will happen to the “Millets Corner” site is unclear, but the long-standing occupants will be vacating the shop in the middle of the council’s £1.1million resurfacing work on Surrey Street, which is due to last until “early June”.
Whether the Surrey Street overhaul will help to attract another known-brand retailer to take the site, or whether it will end up being used by another bookies, fried chicken takeaway or charity shop, as is the case with so many shops in that part of Croydon High Street, remains to be seen.
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