Another nail in the coffin of Croydon as a retail centre will be hammered in place tomorrow, with the closure of the Waitrose supermarket on George Street.
The closure was announced by the groceries arm of the John Lewis Partnership in August. Around 70 staff are affected by the closure, who the company said would be offered redeployment at other stores – Waitrose at Sanderstead remains in business, for instance – retraining or redundancy.
Following on the various closures in the town centre by those businesses that did not survive the covid lockdowns, the closing of this store will leave a large vacant plot just along from East Croydon Station, on one of the borough’s busiest of thoroughfares.
Following the closure announcement, many loyal readers remarked how odd the decision to close seemed, given the proliferation of residential tower blocks soaring into the sky around East Croydon, full of exactly the kind of thrusting young professionals in “executive apartments” who might seem the perfect demographic for Waitrose’s offer.
Waitrose’s closure follows Wetherspoons closing two of its larger boozers over the summer, one on the High Street, one in South Croydon, with no new tenants having moved in. Brexit, more than even covid, has been blamed for the pub chain’s difficulties.
There has been no indication of any business moving in to the Waitrose site on George Street.
The closure of the large store puts yet another gaping hole in Croydon Council’s policy of regenerating the dilapidated and run-down town centre, with Mayor Jason Perry gormlessly still expressing a desire to deal with the same Westfield developers who have broken every promise made to Croydon over the past decade.
Waitrose said, in announcing the closure back in August, “We have found trading challenging here in the last few years and, despite the best efforts of Partners, we have not been able to find a way to make the shop profitable in the long-term.”
The George Street closure marks the complete exiting of central Croydon by John Lewis. They closed their At Home store on Purley Way in 2020.
All suggestions of John Lewis and Waitrose becoming anchor tenants, in the old Allders building, as part of the Westfield redevelopment of the town centre, are now long abandoned.
Waitrose have traded on George Street since around 2009, taking over the site from what had previously been a Safeway supermarket.
The company appears to be shifting its business model in some respects, opting to stock the grocery shelves of Dobbies garden centres – complete with coffee shops and their large car parks for shoppers to fill their boots with trolley-loads of goodies – with much-reduced overheads in return. Out-of-town garden centres pay lower business rates than town centre retail sites.
And if you’re hoping to pick up any “closing down sale” bargains at Waitrose, George Street, today or tomorrow, you might be disappointed. The store’s staff stopped re-stocking some shelves weeks ago, leaving the place looking quite desolate.
A bit like the rest of Croydon town centre.
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