THERE is speculation that the Co-op could be set to re-open the former Haldanes supermarket in Kelso’s Roxburgh Street under its own banner.
All 50 Haldanes staff lost their jobs in June after receiving letters saying the company was appointing administrators.
Ever since, there have been reports of a downturn in trade by shopkeepers in Roxburgh Street, as well as concerns about the impact on adjacent town centre businesses.
The Haldanes group originally bought most of its stores from the Co-operative group, which was forced to sell some shops by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) after it acquired Somerfield.
However, the Roxburgh Street premises are actually owned by London-based company, Threadneedle Investments, who leased them to the Co-op with 24 years still to run on the agreement.
The Co-op and Haldanes are still involved in a legal wrangle and it had been thought the Office of Fair Trading would barr the Co-op from any moves to re-open the Roxburgh Street store itself, and that it was insisting the premises could only be let for use as another supermarket.
At the end of January, local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston (Kelso & District, CON) wrote to the Co-op to check on any progress over the Roxburgh Street premises.
“Kelso desperately needs that shop occupied again as Roxburgh Street is now very quiet and other businesses are suffering as well – I am convinced that shop would trade well as there are still a lot of residents who live in the centre of town who need a grocers shop and miss that shop,” Mr Weatherston told the company.
In reply, a Co-op spokesman stated that until legal matters involving Haldanes were resolved, the company was unable to comment on the situation in Roxburgh Street.
But he pledged the Co-op was working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. However, when contacted recently by TheSouthern, the Co-op said the lease for the premises remained on the market and there was no restriction on who took it over.
At the March meeting of Kelso Community Council, held on Tuesday night, Councillor Colin McGrath revealed that in a conversation with a representative of the Co-op this week, he had been told the company was examining the possibility of re-opening the Roxburgh Street store under the Co-op’s own name.
He said: “This chap from the Co-op said the company had been successful in lifting the sanctions on the opening of a Co-op store in Roxburgh Street. The company is losing about £180,000 a year by keeping that store shut. I hope to know by Friday of this week what is happening.”