More changes on Huntingdon High Street

APRIL will see one in, one out on Huntingdon High Street, with one familiar name relocating to smaller premises while another expands.

APRIL will see one in, one out on Huntingdon High Street, with one familiar name relocating to smaller premises while another expands.

Stationery and craft shop Colemans last week moved from its unit opposite Market Hill to smaller premises on nearby Grammar School Walk, and Oxfam confirmed it plans to open a dedicated bookshop near the corner of George Street.

Declining sales prompted Colemans’ contraction into its smaller premises, but managing director Joanna Patterson-Gordon said the firm remained “totally committed” to continuing its 30-year presence in Huntingdon.

“We traded very successfully in Huntingdon until the gate (to St Germain Walk) went up – that had an impact overnight. It was like turning a tap off. Sales have been declining since,” she said.

One member of staff will relocate to Peterborough and another will retire, but the shop will offer the same range of products.

Reflecting on the changes, Huntingdon town centre manager Katy Sismore said the town remained in a healthier position than many others.

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“There’s no doubt that times are hard at the moment, but we have had five businesses open in Huntingdon in the past year. There are glimmers around the town, and reasons to be optimistic.

“I think other towns will struggle more – we might see some cracks in Huntingdon, but they are not major cracks.”

She said a decision due next Monday (April 18) on the new Sainsbury’s store – with filling station, additional shops, accommodation and parking – was further cause for optimism.

Mrs Sismore added that April was a particularly vulnerable time for trade this year, with a late Easter extending the post-Christmas lull, and the numerous bank holidays – including the additional day for the Royal wedding – putting pressure on shop opening times and staff pay.

Richard Meredith, who has been overseeing the development of the new Oxfam shop, said Huntingdon would become the smallest town to have a dedicated Oxfam book shop when the shop opens on Monday (April 18).

Mr Meredith said: “The book sales at the Chequers Court store had been expanding for years, and so we know there is a market.

“It shows great commitment and confidence in the town to have opened a dedicated book shop.”

Mr Meredith said that he was looking for volunteers to assist in the running of the new shop.

“We may have to close on a couple of days if we cannot find the volunteers. Anyone is welcome to volunteer, and it is a useful pathway into college or part-time work.”

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