‘Change needed’ now that another store is closing

Another company has closed a city shopping center and “change is needed to reverse the pattern of closures,” says a senior council member.

Iris Hair and Beauty salon has closed after the landlords of the Royal Star Arcade in Maidstone called in bailiffs to claw back the lease.

Another business has closed in the Royal Star Arcade: The Iris Hair and Beauty SalonAnother business has closed in the Royal Star Arcade: The Iris Hair and Beauty Salon
Another business has closed in the Royal Star Arcade: The Iris Hair and Beauty Salon

The doors were locked, with much of the company’s stock and equipment still inside.

The 970 sq m property is now offered for rent on the PropertyLink website at a rental price of £35,000 per annum.

The latest closure comes not long after traders including Richy Williams, who runs Pad Thai and The Beach Bar restaurant in the Royal Star Arcade, felt more positive.

Richy told us last month that business was booming and new stores were on the way.

But with the number of vacant properties in the Royal Star at 12 out of 28, and the vacant shops in the nearby shopping center The Mall, the tide does not appear to have turned yet for retail in the city centre.

The seizure notice on the door of The iris Hair and Beauty Salon in the Royal Star ArcadeThe seizure notice on the door of The iris Hair and Beauty Salon in the Royal Star Arcade
The seizure notice on the door of The iris Hair and Beauty Salon in the Royal Star Arcade

And this despite the successful opening of B&M in The Mall at the beginning of this month, in the unit previously occupied by Wilko, which attracted a large crowd on the first day.

Cllr Stephen Thompson (Green) is Cabinet Member for Healthier, Stronger Communities in the newly formed Maidstone Council.

He said: “Change is certainly needed to reverse the pattern of the past three years of closures and turnover of new businesses in our city centre.

“We (the council) believe the best way forward for Maidstone is to develop an overarching strategy that prioritises local shops over chains and the like, and which maximizes the benefits of a mixed and diverse High Street.

“Last year I was invited to cut the ribbon to ‘open’ the Bisi Beauty store in the Royal Star Arcade.

The entrance to the Royal Star Arcade at 4pm - without a customer in sightThe entrance to the Royal Star Arcade at 4pm - without a customer in sight
The entrance to the Royal Star Arcade at 4pm – without a customer in sight

“Small businesses like this thrive on local networks and recommendations, and we will do what we can to encourage more of this.

“But the departure of major stores (such as Next and M&S) to the Junction 8 shopping precinct has reduced the incentive to visit Week Street and The Mall.

“This underlines the importance of a holistic local plan that provides for the enrichment of both the countryside and the city centre.”

Cllr Thompson added: “My planning colleague, Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem), is already working on changes to local planning rules to tackle the flooding of big name shops into out-of-town locations and reverse the trend of retail sites being redeveloped for high-density residential blocks.

“Then there is the even bigger challenge of ensuring more food and other products are supplied locally, so that our communities become more sustainable and resilient as the climate crisis disrupts our food supply.”

The Cabinet Member for Healthier, Stronger Communities - Cllr Stephen ThompsonThe Cabinet Member for Healthier, Stronger Communities - Cllr Stephen Thompson
The Cabinet Member for Healthier, Stronger Communities – Cllr Stephen Thompson

Newcomers are expected at The Mall in the near future.

A spokesperson for The Mall said: “We have recently introduced a range of exciting new brands to The Mall, including Bodycare, B&M, The Real Eating Company, Rey Mia and independent womenswear Ginala.

“We have worked hard to make The Mall as attractive as possible for our guests and retailers, and that work has really made a difference.

“Although we currently have seven vacant units, we have agreed terms for the opening of two more retailers in June and are close to agreeing terms for a further two due to open later in the summer.”

Royal Star Arcade management did not respond to a request for comment.

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