Concerns have been raised about the number of empty units in Melton’s Bell Shopping Centre after another of the town’s long-serving independent traders retired this week.
Ian Jacques (67) had managed The Chocolate Shop in the Bell Centre since 1996.
His family has a long history running businesses in Melton, including his daughter, Katie, who used to help him run the shop before managing her own cookshop in Windsor Street up until 2013.
In 2006, Ian and Katie also launched a bid to run the town’s Post Office branch which eventually moved out of the Bell Centre and into the Co-op on Scalford Road.
Ian said he was stepping down for ‘economic’ reasons, adding: “I can’t keep it going anymore. I will really miss the customers.”
Ian’s sad departure means there are now seven vacant units in the centre. Earlier this year, Andrew and Ashwell, the agents for the centre, trialled Sunday opening in a bid to boost footfall and remain hopeful of filling some of the empty units.
Melton town centre manager Shelagh Core paid tribute to Ian and said she was concerned about the number of empty units.
She said: “Ian has been the face of The Chocolate Shop in Melton for so many years and he was one of our longest serving independent traders so it’s very sad to lose him. He was a really prominent figure in the community and he will be a real loss in the centre. I wish him all the best for the future.”
She added: “The number of empty units in the centre is a concern as I’m sure it is for the agents. We’re trying to work with them as much as we can to encourage more footfall down there. We’re not seeing any start-up businesses going into the centre and I believe the rates are quite high as well, but it could have huge potential.”
There was more positive news for town centre businesses over the Victorian Christmas Fayre weekend which was extended to include Friday this year.
Shelagh said: “Footfall was hugely up and we’re currently doing some survey work with businesses to see how it went.
“On Friday, footfall was 38 per cent up compared to the previous week, up 76 per cent on Saturday and 194 per cent on the Sunday.”
Another encouraging sign is that a number of new businesses have recently opened their doors in the town centre area, including Miss B’s Deli in Sherrard Street, Gift Box in the Bell Centre and Baubles and Bangles in High Street.
In a bid to increase footfall in the town in the run-up to Christmas there’s free parking in Melton Borough Council’s long stay car parks – Burton Street, Mill Street and Scalford Road – tomorrow (Friday) and next Friday (Dec 18)
l Any businesses interested in occupying any of the vacant Bell Centre units, currently for let, can call Andrew and Ashwell on (0116) 2541220 or visit www.andash.co.uk