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Closure of Iceland in Rainham could have 'devastating' impact, fear shoppers

Shoppers fear the closure of Iceland in Rainham Shopping Centre could have a "devastating" impact on the community.

Although Iceland has not confirmed the closure, staff members say the store is due to cease trading on March 5, prompting fears other business could suffer a similar fate.

Iceland in Rainham Precinct
Iceland in Rainham Precinct

With another large unit at the centre already empty following the closure of Shoe Zone last year, shoppers at the centre this week said they were worried the precinct could head into a state of decline.

Pauline Harman, 65, from Parkwood, said the impact of Iceland closing would be "immense", adding: "there's not much in Rainham, full stop. I'm sure there will be a lot of people that miss it. A lot of people use Iceland but they've got the big one out of town, which is fine if you drive.

"I'm devastated. I like Iceland because sometimes I'll go in early to do the shopping and they'll deliver to me later.

"The average age in Rainham is quite elderly and Iceland is quite popular with older people.

"I'm worried about it. Barclays closed in October - I've got it online but a lot of older people can't do that. It will all go eventually."

Pauline Harman fears the closure of Iceland could have a devastating impact on Rainham
Pauline Harman fears the closure of Iceland could have a devastating impact on Rainham

Last week police enforced a dispersal order at the centre, following recent reports of anti-social behaviour and Pauline said such incidents would become more commonplace if the centre was abandoned by businesses.

"The more shops close up, the more it will become a running ground for the lads," she added.

Rainham man Billy Arnold, 47, was also at the centre this week and said the loss of Iceland would be "sad."

"My mum was born in Rainham and she uses Iceland quite often to get frozen produce," he added. "It's probably been there a long time.

"It would be devastating if it closed - Rainham shopping centre serves the local community. It would be devastating for the elderly. We've always hoped that Rainham will remain as vibrant as possible to support local traders and keep businesses going.

"I wouldn't want it to have a knock on effect on other businesses."

Billy Arnold said closing Iceland could have a knock-on effect on other businesses in Rainham
Billy Arnold said closing Iceland could have a knock-on effect on other businesses in Rainham

Steve Punyer, 54, from Rainham, said he'd been going to the shop for around seven years.

"I heard it was closing a couple of days ago. It's a shame. We go in their quite regularly, me and my wife.

"A lot of people have said it's a shame it's closing - it's especially a shame for older people. If they want to go to Iceland now they've got to go on the bus.

"It's not a good thing."

Shoppers said it was rumoured the closure had been prompted by the renewal of the shop's lease and a potential increase in rent.

Steve Punyer said older people would be hit harder by Iceland's closure in Rainham
Steve Punyer said older people would be hit harder by Iceland's closure in Rainham

Rainham North Cllr Martin Potter said he was making inquiries to engage with leaseholders on whether rent had been increased and discuss concerns about the precinct.

"The Iceland at the business park has been open for years and the Rainham Iceland seems to do a good trade," he said. "Elsewhere in Rainham we now have an exciting new tenant confirmed for the former Barclays, which is great news, and if you look around the High Street / shopping area as a whole we have a near 100% occupancy rate despite recent challenges, however, the Precinct has the former Shoe Zone unoccupied and now potentially a big store in Iceland."

But neighbouring businesses said they had not been told about increasing rent, and suggested the closure of Iceland was simply a business decision.

Teresa Cutts of Just Cutts Butchers. "it's a shame a big unit is going like that because it's not good for other businesses. I've got three years left on a 15 year lease and my rent hasn't gone up.

"I think it's an economic decision. They've got a big store up the road. Let's hope Tesco doesn't do the same."

Teresa Cutts, owner of Just Cutts Butchers
Teresa Cutts, owner of Just Cutts Butchers

"I've been in Rainham as a butcher since 1990," added Teresa. "I want to stay here but I've got to be sensible. The more empty shops there are the worse it is.

"People need to support the businesses that are here because we've got some nice little shops."

Michel Micallef, 69, owner of Micallef Jewellers also said he didn't believe the reason for closure was to do with rent or leases.
"That's the first thing anybody says when people start closing down," he said. "We all know they opened a big Iceland up the road. People can press a button and replenish the contents of their freezer, and it gets delivered. They don't need to look around a shop.

"Our rent is not going up - we haven't heard anything like that."

Michel Micallef, owner of Micallef Jewellers
Michel Micallef, owner of Micallef Jewellers

And he said he believes business in the precinct will not be as badly affected as some feared.

"I can't complain because I think people are shopping more locally," he explained. "They've got used to not travelling as far.

"I don't think the closure will affect anything - and I'm sure Tesco can take up the slack.

"Things change and you have got to change with it. I hope something goes in there but I hope it's not a cafe or a charity shop."

Iceland said they did not have any update on the store and would provide further information when it was available.

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