Bosses at Ayr‘s main shopping centre insist the ‘future is bright’ despite losing two major retailers in a week.
Ayr Central chiefs have responded to concerns after the double blow of two companies shutting up shop.
Ayrshire Live has told how jewellery shop Ernest Jones and footwear specialist Clarks are both closing down, with Ernest Jones moving their operations to Sliverburn after decades in the town.
But centre bosses have told shoppers there is no need to panic and have insisted that business in the Kyle Street mall is booming.
Ayrshire Live can exclusively reveal that Ayr Central are locked in talks with a ‘national retailer’ which would be a huge boost to the centre.
Asset Manager Paul McGreevy told Ayrshire Live: “We understand there is a lot of panic and the town centre is struggling.
“But there’s a lot to look forward to here. We’re constantly in talks with potential retailers. We’re currently in discussions with a national retailer which provide a big boost to Ayr Central.”
Ayr Central opened up in March 2006 and has been dubbed one of the newest shopping centres in Scotland.
But the centre was hit hard during Covid which led to the loss of the huge two-floor Debenhams and H&M – which was replaced with a new Job Centre. HMV also moved out, along with Top Shop over the pandemic years.
The centre was taken over almost two years ago by Irish firm Comer Group who also have Irvine’s Rivergate on their huge portfolio of shopping havens.
And the new caretakers insist they are prepped to deal with Clarks and Ernest Jones pulling out, with the two units representing a tiny portion of the centre.
Paul said: “Since we took on Ayr Central we’ve done a new lease to JD Sports for a five year term, we’ve given Superdrug a five year term and Unique a five year term.
“We’ve also given a new lease to the Department of Work and Pensions.
“We’ve reoccupied 35,000 square ft of new lettings since taking over the scheme. We’ve also made improvements to the car park, and relocated three shops to larger units.
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“The two shops that have moved out, Ernest Jones and Clarks, only represent around two per cent of the overall floor area in a 200,000 square ft shopping centre.
“We’ve got retailers here who are wanting to expand.
“The plan is to attract national retailers but that is all about the right timing and the right deal.
“We’re not one bit concerned because the feedback from existing retailers is really positive.”
A big question mark that has hung over the centre is filling the void left by Debenhams, after the UK high street chain collapsed in 2021 – closing all of its stores.
It is understood that a number of ideas have been floated including the possibility of using the unit as Ayr’s new police station.
Paul added: “Debenhams is a challenging space, but it is an exceptional space.
“There has been a number of avenues that we have explored, one of them has been municipal buildings for the town.
“Another idea has been a soft play centre. We’re exploring a number of different options.”