Fears rise for drop in trade following the closure of the Wellington Street entrance to The Arcade
The decision to block off one of the entrances to The Arcade has left the few remaining traders in the shopping centre fearful of being forgotten by Aldershot shoppers.
Wooden boards were erected by owners Dunedin Property on July 28, preventing entry to the shopping centre from Wellington Street as the company carries out work to strip one side of the centre to accommodate the new retailer it desires.
However, the entrance on Victoria Road remains open, allowing access to the four businesses left in the centre whose owners are keen to remind shoppers they are still open for business.
Steve Lucas, owner of Kart Klub Videogames, which has been in The Arcade for 14 years, said he and other traders in the centre were now facing an "uphill battle".
“It’s been talked about for months but it was a surprise that it came so quickly,” he said. “Because it was so quick, it didn’t give us a chance to plan anything like advertising.
“Since the entrance was blocked off we have been getting around 25% of the customers we used to.
“It’s worrying. Naturally our business does rely on people walking past. That is hindered even more by the fact there are no signs up to say there are shops open at this end.
“Sometimes you feel like an outcast. You can’t help but feel you are in a dead end on the wrong side of town.”
Planning permission is in place to build a two-storey pub and Poundland in The Arcade after the decision to reject the unpopular plans was overturned on appeal.
However, pub chain Wetherspoon, Dunedin’s partner, pulled out to complete the purchase of the Queen Hotel instead, leaving the future of The Arcade uncertain.
Mr Lucas took over the Arcade shop seven years ago having run one in Queensmead, Farnborough for eight years.
“I had to close that because the town was redeveloped. This almost feels the same,” he added. “We’re suffering due to various planning issues and through no fault of our own.
“We’re just going to have to adapt by starting an advertising campaign and maybe teeing up some affiliations with other independent stores.
“I’m confident I’ll be able to keep going.”
Figen Bas, owner of Figen’s Hairdressers, said she relied on passing trade due to the high turnover of military clients.
She said: “They are here for a few years and then go again. When our regulars move on we’re not able to gain new ones. How are we able to reach out if there are no people walking by? We can’t spend money for our bread and milk on advertising.
“We have no chances left. I’m worried about how I’m going to feed my kids.”
David Phillips, Rushmoor Borough Council’s town centre manager, said he had met with Dunedin representatives shortly after the entrance was blocked off.
“We discussed whether there was any possibility of taking the hoardings down and keeping the walkway open, but they said the work was too far gone to turn back,” he said.
“Obviously, we as a council aren’t particularly keen on that thoroughfare being closed. It’s frustrating.”
Mr Phillips said he was not aware that a new tenant for The Arcade had been identified but the work suggested Dunedin was confident of finding one.
Dunedin were unavailable for comment.