Trade and tourism leaders have expressed their delight that a prominent former town centre store is finally on the market after months of uncertainty.
The JR Taylor department store closed its doors in early January, with the loss of 60 jobs, after more than a century of trading at the heart of St Annes.
The town is strong and the people are upbeat and it is important
It was seen as the town’s flagship store.
Since then, the four-storey building at the corner of St Annes Square and Garden Street has been left empty, with the windows whitewashed but no other signs or messages except to thanks customers for their business up to the closure.
But signs have now been placed on the building offering it for rental through Blackpool estate agents Duxburys, to the delight of St Annes Chamber of Trade chairman John Moxham, who said: “It’s a major step in the right direction.
“An empty building is never good in any town and these signs offers the prospect of some light at the end of the tunnel, which is very welcome.”
Meanwhile, Barbara Mackenzie, chairman of the Holiday Association of Lytham St Annes (HALSA), said that the signs were a welcome sight for visitors as well as residents.
“Losing such an established business after so many years was bad enough - the sight of the store empty with whited-out windows made the situation worse,” she said. “But the rental signs going up offer the prospect of something happening with the building in the shorter rather than the longer term and we await development with interest.”
Chamber of Trade officials have maintained that St Annes remains buoyant despite the shock loss of Taylor’s, which had been a vital part of the town’s retail offer since 1901 – and Mr Moxham maintains that it is well worth waiting for the right kind of occupant for the former store.
“Who knows what the future holds - it is a very big building which I am sure would be a big commitment for one occupant but we will wait and see what happens,” he said.
“The town is strong and the people are upbeat and it is important to keep building on that.
“In the recent past, it has been very encouraging to see the likes of Aldi, Tesco Express, B&M Bargains and the Prezzo restaurant chain come into the town and give new leases of life to buildings and make their presence felt - all major names with a national reputation.
“It would be good for something similar to happen with at least part of the Taylors building but we will wait and see and whoever comes in, the town will be supportive.
“I think whoever come in, it is important that it is someone who is here to stay rather than be been and gone in 12 months.”
Rumours have circulated that Marks & Spencer and Primark were both interested in the site, but no retailer has confirmed an interest in the imposing building.
As well as heading HALSA, Barbara, who was St Annes’ first town mayor, is also prime organiser of the St Annes Music and Arts Festival, which is coming up next month and includes in its programme a number of events at the Palace building and Ashton Gardens just yards from the old Taylors.
“Garden Street is an important gateway and it has been sad to see the empty building with so hint as to what might happen next - but now we eagerly await developments,” she said.
Exact details of the rental offer for the former JR Taylor premises had yet to be made public as the Express went to press, with a spokesman for Duxburys saying that they were still being finalised.