SHOPPERS have called for town centre bosses to stop Huddersfield’s decline.
Their concerns over the slump comes after another large retailer shuts up shop.
Marks & Spencer closed its Piazza Centre store last week – 15 months after warning it could no longer run two Huddersfield town centre shops.
The company has consolidated operations at its New Street store but the departure has left the town centre with yet another large empty unit.
There are more than a dozen vacant units around New Street, The Piazza and Victoria Lane.
Other retailers to have left the town centre include Woolworths, Ponden Mills, Ethel Austin, Peacocks, Past Times and Mothercare.
New businesses that have come in have primarily been pound shops, charity shops and fast food operators.
With the quality of retailer dropping, Examiner readers have called on Kirklees Council to do something to stop the decline.
Ideas include lowering rents and attempting to bring in more famous high street brands, including Starbucks, Yo Sushi! and Lush.
Other readers on The Examiner’s Facebook page have warned that the town could end up like Bradford.
The city council there has been left with a large undeveloped brownfield site after a shopping centre plan fell through.
Cathy Burger, from the Huddersfield Town Centre Partnership, said she could not comment on any plans to fill the M&S unit but said there would be a “clearer picture” after business leaders met for their bi-monthly retail forum next month.
A spokeswoman for Kirklees Council was also tight-lipped about any plans to fill empty units. She said: “The council are working with property owners in town to consolidate and enhance the retail offer of Huddersfield.”
A spokesman for the owners of the Piazza Shopping Centre is “upbeat” following the expected M&S announcement.
He said: “We have known about the closure plan for more than 12 months and although saddened that such a major brand is leaving we are already at an advanced stage of detailed negotiation with a replacement high street retailer.
“The new store will improve and enhance the retailing mix within The Piazza.”
One business with hopes the Piazza Centre will thrive is Outdoor World.
The High Street company is moving from its current unit opposite the Civic Centre to the former Clarks shoes shop.
Manager Ruth Scotland said they were hoping to re-locate by October but admitted they were disappointed by the departure of M&S.
But she said they felt the Piazza Centre would boost their trade as it was in a higher-profile location.
She said: “The problem with our current shop is it’s a bit ‘off-site’. People are losing their jobs and we used to get a lot more trade from the offices nearby.
“We also feel that Kingsgate is taking away a lot of trade from us. Trade has dropped with the recession but we still believe there’s good business to be had in Huddersfield.
“It’s costing us more but we’ve got a good deal on our rent at the Piazza Centre and the people that run in really care about it.
“We’re a bit disappointed about M&S leaving but there’s still BHS and some other big retailers like WH Smith.”