When the new Jobcentre - housed at the former New Look store in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre - opened on January 12, dozens of Hastings Observer readers said they would have preferred to see a new shop open there instead. Some claimed the new Jobcentre - opposite Primark and on the main route from the train station to the town centre - will be bad for tourism and a further blow to the high street.
Although some new smaller shops have opened recently in the town, there are several large stores that have stood empty in Hastings town centre over the past few months, and longer.
They include the former Debenhams building in Robertson Street, the former Clarks shoe shop and Carphone Warehouse in Priory Meadow, and the former Peacocks store in Queens Road. The old Argos store in Castle Street is also still for let.
We asked what businesses you would like to see take over these stores to help Hastings survive the growing competition of online shopping, and the lack of footfall in the town centre. And the answers came thick and fast...
Many people said they would like to see Argos return to the town, and there were a number of calls for Wilko, The Range, B&M, Home Bargains and IKEA.
Adam Chacksfield said: “Argos would be an ideal Wagamama. I can imagine the queues tailing back past all those glass windows. Definitely need more entertainment venues. And maybe a John Lewis in Debenhams.” Mick O’Dowd said the town centre “is sadly lacking a large electrical goods retailer”.
Beatrice Lacey said: “As a starter I think parking needs to be a lot cheaper or free. We need a good butcher, dairy, and greengrocer, quality clothes shop, and affordable independent pop-up shops and art galleries to encourage small businesses and our vibrant artist population. I also think that we need a community hub for meeting - so many homeless warriors and pirates dominating.”
Karen Cornelius said a Farmfoods frozen food supermarket and Taco Bell fast food restaurant would be good additions. Pat Welch said he had been wanting to set up an “environmentally-friendly, synthetic skating rink” for children for years, but the rent and rates are too high. Farhana Khan’s suggestions included a youth club, a volunteer-run music school for kids, a co-operative-run vegan or vegetarian restaurant, and a covered area for market stall holders.
Diana Holubowicz said: “Convert the empty stores’ upper floors into affordable housing. Small, independent shops, restaurants, cafés, bars and food stores below in the retail spaces.” Graham Hodgson said: “Have higher expectations. Look at Eastbourne and find out what they are doing - anywhere you can buy a Rolex watch must be doing something right!”