A long-standing butcher and greengrocer shop in Knowle’s Broadwalk Shopping Centre will close in early April, it has been announced. M W Fresh Foods owner Will Appleby has blamed the rising cost of produce and a decline in footfall at the run-down centre.
The shop, which opened 23 years ago, becomes the latest casualty at the centre following news B&M will also be shutting its store. The struggling shopping centre is currently earmarked for a controversial redevelopment by owners Redcatch Development Partnership.
In a statement issued through the Redcatch Development Partnership, Mr Appleby said he would miss his customers, but trading conditions had made it impossible for him to continue. His shop, situated close to B&M, will close when the lease expires in early April.
Mr Appleby said: “It’s with great sadness that I have to close my shop M W Freshfoods. I have been here for 23 years and have enjoyed good trading. Unfortunately, retail has become more and more challenging in the centre; with the rising costs of produce and utilities along with declining footfall, profit margins are being squeezed to the point that during the summer holidays we were working only to cover the costs”
“I have enjoyed a good rapport with my customers and will miss them,” he added.
Over recent years a number of other shops have left the shopping centre. In 2019, Wilko closed its store. BrightHouse and énergie fitness have also shutdown. Shopping centre owner Redcatch Development Partnership told Bristol World that the shop units were too big and had ‘no flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing needs of retailers’.
The developer, which wants to rename the area Redcatch Quarter unders its plans which also include building 817 homes, added: “The 50-year-old centre has reached the end of its life physically.”
However, while locals accept a new shopping centre is needed, many are unhappy over the number of homes and the size of the proposed blocks, which would be up to 12 storeys high. There would also be a 57% reduction in retail and community space, campaigners point out.
A decision on the planning application by Bristol City Council is likely to be made on March 15. There has been some local support, including from Knowle councillor Gary Hopkins, who says the centre could close down completely if the propoal isn’t approved.
Mr Appleby has also voiced his support. In his statement, provided through the developer, he said: “As a local businessman I understand how difficult it has become for the other retailers and landlord to reverse the decline of the centre. That is why we need to bring back life to shopping in Knowle and the redevelopment plans are exactly what is needed for Knowle. I would like to thank my customers and staff for their continued support.”
The plans would see the shopping centre demolished and a ‘neighbourhood destination’ created with homes, a new library and cafe, a restaurant and retail space. A pedestrianised high street would also be introduced from the Wells Road to Redcatch Park.
Last September, Bristol World spoke to Mr Appleby on the centre and the future of his business. He described the state of business then as ‘terrible, shocking’, adding that the centre was ‘knackered’ and ‘falling apart’.
Asked if he’s open in a new shopping centre at the site, he said: “If I wanted a unit, they would offer me one but with my age, and the way the high street is, plus the rising costs of rent, I’m not sure to be honest.”