Co-op cafe faces closure as fashion retailer begins talks

The days of the Co-op cafe would appear to be numbered following the re-emergence of talks with fashion retailer Peacocks to open up an outlet in the Holmsgarth Road store.

The Shetland Times has learned plans are underway for the High Street name to be in place in the Lerwick supermarket by the end of the year, bringing an end to the long-running eatery housed in the Co-op building run by the Sumburgh Hotel.

As part of the proposals the clothes outlet would spill out of where the existing cafe area lies, and take up a portion of the floor-space occupied by the Co-op’s shelves. That will inevit­ably re­duce the store’s overall footprint for merchandise, despite the Co-op’s insistence that an “extensive range” of goods will continue to be offered.

News emerged over a year-and-a-half ago that the clothing giant hoped to open up in the Lerwick supermarket building. But word of the develop­ment quickly died down after Peacocks became one of the many high street retailers at the time to fall victim to the recession.

However more than 300 stores throughout the country were saved when Edinburgh Woollen Mill bought the retailer out of administration, safeguarding 6,000 UK jobs.

On Wednesday it emerged plans to see Peacocks set up in the isles were back on track. The Co-op said the retailer would prove to be a valuable addition to the store.

Its PR manager, Steve Broughton, said: “We are in discussions for clothes retailer Peacocks to open a unit within our food store in Holmsgarth Road, Lerwick. It is hoped to open by the end of the year, in the area currently occupied by an independently-run cafe, which would close. The Peacocks outlet would extend into part of the existing food store, which will continue to stock an extensive range. We are confident that Peacocks would be a great addition, and be popular with our customers.”

The cafe is run by the Sumburgh Hotel, and is operated by four members of hotel staff. It has proved popular over the years with regular visitors, including tourists and workers on their lunch-breaks eager to catch a quick and simple bite to eat.

Sumburgh Hotel manager Mark Donaldson said the idea of changing the cafe into a clothes outlet had been rumbling on for some time.

“The Co-op looked to do that a year ago until Peacocks had their problems. It’s always been on the back-burner to do something else.

“It’s not just the cafe that’s affected, it’s the whole of that side of the building that will be taken over.

“The cafe is not very big. It’s quite a large unit that’s going in there. It’s right up that side of the building where the drinks aisle is, so they are obviously doing a bit of a shuffle around.”

Mr Donaldson said the cafe staff would be redeployed to work in his other “business interests” in Lerwick, although he declined to say what they were.

Chairman of Lerwick Community Council, Jim Anderson, said the changes have been waiting in the wings for some time.

He said the loss of the cafe could benefit other planned eateries in the town, such as the new cafe-bar planned by Dennis Leask – which could prove popular with Tesco customers – and the proposed cafe at the top of Harry’s Department Store.

“They were going to change … but Peacocks went bust… so it all kind of fell through.

“If I remember correctly there was no concern. It would maybe work in well with Dennis Leask’s plan for a cafe, and indeed when Harry gets his plan for a cafe.”

Peacocks has yet to respond to The Shetland Times’ request for a comment. Edinburgh Woollen Mill declined to comment.


Add Your Comment
  • Harry Dent

    • July 19th, 2013 13:12

    Personally, I’d rather see the cafe up its game and provide better food and drink – the truly disgusting tea on my last visit has meant I’ve not been back for many months – but I guess the Coop is looking for a way to attract significantly larger numbers of people through the door.

  • stephen shirmer

    • July 19th, 2013 14:58

    What no more heart stopping bacon rolls- I suppose it will have to be a vegie burger in one of the more cultural , popular cafes that abound round new Lerwick.

  • John Anderson

    • July 20th, 2013 12:31

    It is a god-send for folk just off the boat – one of the few that opens very early, and has cheap ( if not very healthy) food. I’d welcome Harry and Dennis’s cafes, but they are in the wrong place and for a different client group to fill the gap left by this place.

  • fraser cluness

    • July 20th, 2013 15:11

    why in with the co-op is there no empty shops on the street or in toll clock that they can go rather than close a good going cafe?

  • Rachel Buchan

    • July 20th, 2013 22:18

    I agree wi’ Fraser. Why take over the Co-op cafe, when there are empty units elsewhere? I don’t know about the Toll Clock, but isn’t there an empty unit where Swansons used to be? Or at Sophie Dawn’s, which is shutting soon?

  • Bill Smale

    • July 20th, 2013 22:28

    If Peacocks are a High Street name, that’s where they should go….the Street. Safeway went downhill after the café closed and the space was taken over for white goods. Will the Co-op follow suit?

  • David B Spence

    • July 22nd, 2013 7:53

    If you go into any Co-op “south”, you will find Peacocks. If’s just the Co-op clothing brand, similar to Tesco’s “F&F” or Asda’s “George” brands.

    I welcome the additional choice in affordable clothing, but agree that the cafe will be a big loss, especially to those off the boat (who can’t afford the £10 breakfast) and the contractors/drivers who benifit from the early start and ease of parking.

  • David Spence

    • July 22nd, 2013 9:32

    It will be interesting to know how the co-op is really doing in respect to it’s competitor Tesco’s? I have been in the co-op a few times over the weeks and it has been fairly quiet in terms of customers.

    It makes me wonder if the co-op is really managing well enough for it to be still here on the islands?

    May be this recent change is an act of it trying to upgrade to attract more customers?

  • Harry Dent

    • July 22nd, 2013 10:52

    Must admit it’s never ocurred to me to use the Co-op cafe for breakfast off the boat – I always head for the New Harbour Cafe.

    I’d suggest the Co-op needs to up its game to compete with Tesco. I prefer the Co-op, but have to admit Tesco is ahead in terms of choice and customer service. Hope the new management is able to turn things round in favour of the Co-op.

  • Joe Johnson

    • July 22nd, 2013 13:05

    Even down south I prefer Tesco then the co op. Tesco is much cheaper then the co op and Tesco does offer so much more and keeps up with the times. I really don’t see how the co op in lerwick is going to compete with tesco. The new manager and management of the co op
    will have to really turn things around if they want to catch up with Tesco.


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