Closure a ‘hammer blow’ for store staff

Dunnes Stores
Dunnes Stores

The news that Dunnes Stores is to close its High Street Mall branch has been described as a “hammer blow” for staff.

It is believed the mall’s anchor store will cease trading on Friday, August 4 after 36 years in the town.

It is understood staff were called to a second meeting on Tuesday where they were told there is no opportunity for redeployment.

Michala Lafferty of trade union USDAW, which represents around 25-30 per cent of the 20 staff, said workers had thought their jobs were secure after the grocery section was closed and the store revamped in 2015.

And she added there was real concern about the “ripple effect” on other businesses and jobs in the centre.

The mall has lost a number of businesses recently. Argos closed its store on Friday while House of Sport is set to relocate to bigger premises in Rushmere in September.

The Portadown Times understands a number of businesses, which are due to renew their leases shortly, may not be doing so.

It is also understood that two recent meetings between Mall management and ABC Council were cancelled.

Neither Dunnes nor High Street Mall have responded to Portadown Times’ requests for a comment, and no official statement has yet been made on the closure.

High Street Mall was taken over by Brittas Properties of Hillsborough in February 2015, with the new owners announcing that they were looking forward to developing the mall.

There was some good news several weeks ago with signs that Greggs are taking over the former Portadown Cares unit, fronting onto the main street.

Although no official announcement has been made, the company has been interviewing for staff.

Meanwhile, councillors are calling for a meeting to discuss the future of the shopping centre amid the ongoing uncertainty.

Councillor Louise Templeton said, “The issue was raised at the council on Monday night. We would like to see a meeting between the council and Brittas to discuss the future of the mall, as any more closures are going to have a detrimental effect on the town centre.”

Upper Bann DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said, “We need to explore how we as politicians and the local business community can seek to attract additional retailers and investment into the Portadown area.”

Ms Lafferty urged Dunnes to engage with them- so far the union has had no response from the retailer - so that it can “provide support and guidance to members”.

She also invited any staff members who needed advice on rights and entitlements to contact her on 028 9066 3773.