High street store Argos looks set to leave Hartlepool’s flagship shopping centre leaving numerous workers uncertain for their futures.
The catalogue shop that has been in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre for more than 20 years is planned to close next January.
We will be working with staff over the next few weeks to support them as much as possibleArgos spokesman
Shopping centre bosses say the decision has been taken at national level after the expiry of the lease.an and announced the opening of two new stores.
Staff were informed of the proposals earlier this week and the store says it is now in the middle of a consultation process to determine their future.
The closure would be seen as another blow to the centre which has seen the loss of numerous names in recent years.
But Mark Rycraft, Middleton Grange manager, said there was also positive news for the centre with two new recent additions and the promise of more to come next year.
Mr Rycraft said: “Argos have made a company decision to cease trading in January 2016 following the expiry of their lease at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
“This decision was taken at national level. We are proud to welcome two new stores including Fizzylicious who recently opened at the centre and The Entertainer toy shop who will open on Saturday, November 28.
“There will be further retailer announcements to follow in the New Year.”
It has not been confirmed how many staff work at Argos, which often takes on extra temporary workers over the busy Christmas period.
It has another branch in Hartlepool on the Anchor Retail Park.
A spokesman for the store said: “Argos can confirm that it has entered a period of consultation with employees regarding the proposed closure of the Argos store in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool in January 2016.
“Colleagues at the store have been informed and we will be working with them over the next few weeks to support them as much as possible. As this consultation is in progress, we are unable to comment further at this time.”
Among the stores to have departed Middleton Grange in recent years are Marks & Spencer which relocated to Anchor Retail Park as a food-only outlet, women’s clothing shop Evans, which became part of BHS, Burton menswear and Phones4U.
Councillors recently granted planning permission for the upper floor of M&S to be used as a gym and shopping centre landlords said they were in talks with a national fashion brand about taking the ground floor.
This year the centre has also welcomed shoe shop Pavers and fashion and home store Pep&Co.
Hartlepool Borough Council is working with the shopping centre to attract new business as part of a town centre and waterfront regeneration Masterplan.
Councillor Kevin Cranney, chair of the council’s Regeneration Services committee, said: “The proposed closure of the Argos store in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre early next year is very disappointing.
“The council is prepared to work with all parties to do whatever it can to help minimise the effects of closure.
“We also enjoy a close working relationship with the owners of the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre and we will continue to support their efforts to attract further new investment and jobs.”