WH Smith Leaving Wakefield

I’ve been regrettably absent from this blog but the amount of work I’m trying to do at the moment doesn’t leave much time for me to form and articulate opinions. However, as this is a blog with a local slant, I thought it was important to write about the news reported in the Wakefield Express on Friday – WH Smith are leaving The Ridings shopping centre and, by extension, Wakefield because they cannot find another unit to accommodate them in the city.

A recap on how this came about: The Ridings decided (or were told, who knows?) that Primark wanted to expand. So they, in their wisdom decided to evict WH Smith and Waterstones from the two units adjacent to the current Primark store saying, at the time, that the shops would be accommodated elsewhere within the centre. Anybody looking at the size of the units available back then could tell there was no chance of finding reasonably-sized space for them.  A book shop or a branch of WH Smith is not something you can squeeze into a tiny hole with any great success.

Waterstones jumped ship, understandably so. They closed down their branch in The Ridings and relocated to the old HMV shop just outside the centre. As it happens, it’s a much nicer space for a book shop than their old branch but that isn’t the point: they were forced out and the fact that they landed on their feet is mere accident not design, especially when The Ridings was unable (or unwilling?) to accommodate them.

WH Smith were not so lucky. Waterstones jumped into one of the only suitable units in the city and for months I’ve been speculating where WH Smith would go. The answer is nowhere: The Ridings can’t find anything suitable for them in there and, it seems, the wider centre doesn’t hold any options either. I’ll admit, I’ve been thinking hard about a decent-sized location that isn’t too far out of the way and I’ve come up with nothing. I don’t think the available units in Trinity Walk are large enough for a good-sized branch, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

The moral of the story seems to be this: The Ridings will move heaven and earth to accommodate a cheap clothes shop that doesn’t need an expansion (it really doesn’t, it’s adequate for the size of Wakefield) and treat two long-standing clients appallingly to get their way. Clothes over culture – that’s the message. Well done, you’ve lost us one of the shops that, I believe, is integral to any British high street these days. Quite a feat there.