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Peter records a retail meltdown

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: June 21, 2012

  • Twice as Nice is currently occupying the Causewayhead site.

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EVERY TIME a business closes its doors in Penzance, a local historian is there to document the event.

For the past four years Peter Waverly has been capturing the state of the town's axed businesses, taking pictures each time a new trader shuts up shop.

He has now compiled more than 100 images as he documents an "unprecedented" time in the town's history.

"There has been a change, and it's probably going to last for ever," said Mr Waverly, of the Penzance Archive.

"Nothing like this has happened in the town before.

"In a normal recession you'd see between five and eight shops close per year, but with up to 30 closing, that shows the real difference."

Mr Waverly, 55, began his economic research when the recession started to bite in September 2008, and so far has taken pictures of 124 closed shops.

"Every week or fortnight I go around town with my camera taking pictures of closed shops and those that have reopened," he said.

"I don't think closures are good because it leads to instability."

He said he would continue his documenting work until the number of store closures slowed down.

"The way things are going in Europe I think it's going to take a long time before things get better," he prophesied.

Peter Wood, manager of Wharfside Shopping Centre, is also compiling his own list of figures detailing the state of Penzance's high street.

His research shows that there are currently 24 empty business premises in the town. The majority are in the most built-up area of Market Jew Street, where 11 of 92 shops are vacant.

"A shop opens up, trades for a couple of years, then closes and someone else takes over," he said, "but shop turnover isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"It can be quite healthy because it brings new ideas into the town."

He added that though national chain stores such as the recently closed Curry's might leave the high street, this could make way for other enterprising businesses.

"When Woolworth's closed it made way for Poundland," said Mr Wood, a member of the Town Team established earlier this year to harness the expertise of local businesses for the benefit of the town.

"I think these figures help to paint Penzance in a much better light.

"I could go somewhere like Truro and also find 24 empty shops."

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