THE threatened end of a well-known high street chain has put the future of retail in York into the spotlight.

Luke Charters, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for York Outer, has criticised the government’s record on retail and the way in which stores are levied.

Wilko fell into administration on August 10 which put the company’s Clifton Moor store at risk along with the jobs of its staff.

The city centre has also seen the shutters come down on shops including SpaceNK, TK Maxx and Paperchase in the last 12 months, amid national closures from B&Q, Boots, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser.

Lets have recently been agreed for two vacancies at the former BHS store in Feasgate, although it is not known whether retailers will occupy them.

Mr Charters said he wrote to Wilko CEO Mark Jackson, as administrators and the GMB union met company bosses.

He said: “The bigger picture of this springs to mind.

“The Conservatives have failed our high streets and shopping centres.

“They have changed planning laws and failed to reform the broken business rates system.

“Now our high streets face even more challenging times ahead."

Earlier this year, the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer outlined a plan to revitalise high streets which included overhauling and scrapping business rates to help small businesses and devolving new powers to councils to revamp empty stores. 

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Julian Sturdy, Conservative MP for York Outer, said: “The loss of any jobs is obviously a cause for concern and I remain on hand to assist those who work at Wilko in their search for future employment.

“I believe this closure is not just linked to Wilko’s business practices but the changing face of the high street.

“We cannot stand against the tide and hope it will change.

“We can serve residents better by embracing the change, ensure York is at the forefront of the future of city centres and by allowing businesses to create more jobs.

“York is bursting with potential.

“Pavers hope to upgrade their headquarters in Poppleton, the Designer Outlet at Fulford want to expand to boost their retail offering, and the Helmsley Group have unveiled ambitious plans to revitalise the city centre riverside."

July’s retail volume figures are down – Office for National Statistics figures show sales fell 1.2 per cent on the month.

It said this, plus online promotions contributed to an 18-month high of sales made via the internet at 27.4 per cent as a proportion of overall sales.

Forecasting group EY Item Club said wet weather in July had a big impact on clothing sales at supermarkets.

Chief economic adviser Martin Beck said: “While we don't think July’s particular weakness is wholly indicative of the outlook for retail, given the weather factor, subdued growth is likely to characterise the sector for the foreseeable future.”

The sixth wettest July since 1836 was recorded last month.

The GMB has indicated a deal could be struck for Wilko.

National secretary Andy Prendergast said: “We can confirm there have been expressions of interest from organisations who are considering taking over at least some parts of the business.

“Whilst this process continues staff will be paid and kept on.

“All stores are continuing to trade, and deliveries of new stock will continue.”