03:52PM, Friday 16 October 2020
Fresh concerns have been raised about footfall in the town centre, with big chains closing their doors in recent weeks.
Pizza Hut, next to the Odeon, and the Tesco Metro in the Nicholsons Centre are the latest businesses to leave the town centre.
Nicholsons Centre shops are departing partly because the centre is due to be redeveloped. As such, shops located there have not renewed their lease.
“Although the shopping centre doesn’t look great with a number of units unoccupied, there is a wider plan for it to be improved in the long term,” said Steph James, Maidenhead town manager.
“In the meantime we will be working with the shopping centre to allow temporary usage of those units.”
On October 12, Maidenhead Foodshare moved into the old Tesco unit.
The loss of the large chains has negatively affected footfall in the town centre, according to some businesses in the town.
Laura Urso manages Fleur de Lis florists in King Street.
“The footfall at this end of the town is getting less and less – it’s made a big difference to our business,” she said. “There’s nothing here now.”
Laura would prefer to see another chain supermarket in Tesco’s place. However, Ms James thinks this is unlikely.
“There are very few national retailers who are expanding at the moment,” she said.
She added that there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small businesses to take space that would not have been available in the past.
“We still have lots of independent businesses who really need support at this time,” she said.
Mike Miller, president of Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce, believes that the outlets that do best in Maidenhead are niche stores, such as The Italian Shop, The South African Shop and Pierozek Polish Supermarket & Delicatessen.
He said that when he ran the South African store, customers from abroad would come straight from Heathrow to shop there.
“Good niche stores that are well-run, well-promoted and have a proper reason for being do very well,” he said.
Rashida Thornewell, owner of Fresh & Fabulous Aesthetic Beauty Salon, feels that the town could benefit from more upmarket offerings, such as stylish women’s clothing outlets, wine bars and an independent book store.
“We need good brands to attract people in. The Nicholsons hasn’t got anything to draw anyone in – it has good parking, but there are no shops and nowhere to hang out.”
This has affected her business because her clientele are not served well by the nearby shop offerings. Rashida has been noticing the impact since Next left three years ago.
However, it is hoped the current state of things is only temporary – big chages are expected as a result of the new Waterways developments and the Crossrail connection.
“Maidenhead is on the cusp of becoming a major centre for the region,” added Mr Miller.
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