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.