Fashion Central shuts up shop

CLOSING DOWN: Fashion central is the third Nelson retailer to announce its closure in the past month.
CLOSING DOWN: Fashion central is the third Nelson retailer to announce its closure in the past month.

A women's fashion company will close its Nelson branch to focus its efforts on Richmond, becoming the third such retailer to quit the city in the last month.

Ballentynes Fashion Central on Bridge St will close on May 8, with the family-owned retail chain leasing its building and directing customers to its Richmond store on Queen St.

Marketing manager Michael Ballentyne said they had moved the store from its previous location, around the corner on Trafalgar St, and since then it had not received the level of trade they had been after.

Three staff would lose their jobs, but the majority of the staff were there on a contract after a longstanding manager left last year, and they had always known this was a possibility.

"We supported some of the individuals through times which weren't so good for them, and they actually came back to work for us because they knew we were in trouble.

"They were more than happy to help out through what might have turned into a long-term thing or might have been a short-term thing, and as it turns out it's been a short-term thing."

The move had made good sense at the time, as the store had gone from paying an expensive lease to owning the Bridge St building.

"As a family that owns the property you have the choice to lease it out to someone else. It keeps your options open."

They had now signed the lease on the Bridge St building to a new business, but he would not say who.

The company owns 30 stores around the country, and opened its Richmond store in the mid-1990s, and the Nelson branch about seven years ago.

There had been "seismic shifts" with the whole retail industry in the past four or five years, which he said was causing "a rationalisation".

"We're still doing OK but to justify two stores in a relatively small market is difficult. By consolidating them down what we're hoping for is the majority of our customers will still shop with us in Richmond as they did previously."

Their records showed most people shopped in both places, perhaps a reflection of the size of the town, he said.

There would not be a closing-down sale, as the business would not be ditching stock, he said.

"That's why we use the term merging."

This is the third women's retailer to quit the city in the last month, with K & K Fashions and Millers Fashion Club both closing their doors.

Uniquely Nelson chief executive Cathy Madigan said she felt for the retailers toward the top end of Bridge St, who had a lot to deal with due to the nightclub environment and the "leftovers" in the morning.

Because those bars were closed during the day it created an empty pocket up there which discouraged foot traffic.

"A lot of businesses up the top end of Bridge St there, if they are relying on walk-in, it's a struggle."

It was disappointing how many women's fashion stores were closing this year, but it did not mean the sector was in trouble, she said.

"Women's fashion is probably one of the largest categories in Nelson city, so inevitably, that's going to be the area that looks like it's suffering when there are some closures.

"Usually when there's this ebb and flow it affects different categories of retail, but this time it appears to have just been the luck of the draw that it was a number of fashion retailers."