Home Business and economy Kirkby – one year on from Morrisons!

Kirkby – one year on from Morrisons!

by Guy Murphy

Today marks one year since the much-anticipated Morrisons superstore opened its doors in Kirkby Town Centre.

Since opening it’s doors on 21 October 2021, the 45,000 feet2 store has seen thousands of shoppers pour through its doors and it has received an overwhelmingly positive welcome from the local community.  It also created 275 full and part-time jobs.

Eddie Pritchard, Store Manager at Morrisons in Kirkby, said:

“Since we opened our doors, I’ve had so many positive comments about the store being open, and how great it is for customers to have this supermarket on their doorstep.  People love the layout of the store, the product range, and how amazing their customer experience has been.  Our unique Market Kitchen is a massively popular attraction offering a range of “buy and go” options for shoppers.  We’ve also expanded our distribution, with home deliveries through Deliveroo, making our products even more accessible to residents.

On behalf of everyone at Morrisons in Kirkby, I want to say thank you to everyone who has visited the store and made us all feel so welcome.  We are really delighted to be part of the Kirkby community.”

In addition to providing a range of produce, highlights of the Morrisons offer in Kirkby include the Butcher, Fishmonger, and Bakery counters, the “Nutmeg” clothing range, a petrol station, and a Morrisons Market Kitchen where freshly made meals are created by a team of in-store chefs.

The store is also playing a key role in the local Kirkby community and its Community Champion Faye Lynch is engaging with residents, local schools, charities, and foodbanks.

The opening of the Morrisons store marked a major milestone in Knowsley Council’s ambitious plans for Kirkby Town Centre.

In 2019, Knowsley Council invested £43.8m to buy Kirkby Town Centre and build the new retail development, supported by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority who have invested £10m so far and have pledged a further £5m in support of the Councils work.

Just two years later – and despite a global pandemic – the 94,000 feet2 retail development opened and is now home to the Morrisons superstore as well as a petrol station, drive-through KFC and Taco Bell restaurants, and Home Bargains.  PureGym, a 24/7 gym operator, will also be opening its doors in the coming weeks.

The whole of the retail development has created over 490 jobs for local people, created over 450 free parking spaces for visitors, generated a £15.3m annual boost to the local economy, and brought new visitors to the town centre.  The success of the programme is evident from the increase in town centre “footfall” in Kirkby.  Compared to pre-pandemic visitor figures, Kirkby Town Centre visitor numbers have increased by 6.2% – across the rest of the country, town centre visitor figures have reduced by 14.7% during the same period.

As the development has progressed, a number of other businesses have been attracted to open or expand in Kirkby Town Centre, including Doogle Donuts and Benneton Childrenswear.

Claire Vaughan, Owner and Director of Benetton Liverpool and Kirkby, said:

“I’ve been open in Kirkby for 8 months now and I’m delighted to be part of the Kirkby community.  It’s a great location and with the vast array of events in the town centre too, we’re seeing people travelling in from other areas.  I’m delighted to be here.”

As part of the Council’s commitment to the town centre, Kirkby Market was completely rebuilt in 2014 and the Market continues to benefit from support and direct investment from Knowsley Council.  In March this year, a further £50,000 was spent on improvement works, including the replacement of external awnings, repainting external areas and shutters, and new signage.

Serine Cahill of Kirkby Podiatry, located in Kirkby Market, said: “I opened in May 2018 and have not looked back since.  Location was important to me and I couldn’t be in a better setting – in a busy, pedestrian town centre.  Opening up in Kirkby Market was made so easy.”

The Council has also spent significant public funds on maintaining the existing town centre and putting on events programmes through the year, including some showstopping attractions including Aqualux and Gaia, both part of Knowsley’s Borough of Culture celebrations.

Councillor Tony Brennan, Knowsley Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said:

“We are extremely proud of what we have achieved in Kirkby, for the people of Kirkby.  This is a town that was continually let down by private sector developers for decades.  Without our intervention and investment back in 2019, it would be a very different picture in Kirkby today.  The impact of “doing nothing” would have been catastrophic for town centre businesses, local traders, and the community as a whole.

“Instead, what we have seen is multi-million-pound investment from this Council and our regeneration of the area has resulted in footfall increasing across the whole town centre, new businesses opening up, and hundreds of local jobs being created.  When you compare Kirkby with other towns which are seeing visitor figures reducing, it’s a really positive picture for Kirkby.  While town centre visitor numbers across the country are reducing, footfall in Kirkby has increased by 6.2%.  This just would not be happening without the Council investment.

“People from Kirkby can and do shop in Kirkby and, as well as an improved retail offer, we have also seen lots of landscaping improvements and big attractions and events which have brought in thousands of people to the town centre throughout 2022.

“All of this has been achieved despite 10 years of austerity and cuts to our Council’s funding, a global pandemic, the impact of Brexit, a cost of living crisis, and now a completely incompetent national Government.

“Despite all of these challenges, we are continuing to drive our ambitious plans for Kirkby.  As well as promoting the town as a great business location, we will be upgrading the multi-storey car park to create a “Travel Hub” and improve this key gateway into the town.  There are also plans for the land south of Cherryfield Drive with Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes recently consulting with the public with a view to proposing much-needed new homes and create even more footfall for the town centre, which will in turn help to attract more businesses and create an even more vibrant town centre.

“We are of course disappointed that we have had to pause our plans to deliver a cinema.  Kirkby is unfortunately by no means alone in suffering from the effects of the appalling decisions being made – or in fact not made – by the shambolic Government.  Nevertheless, the Council remains committed to bringing our cinema scheme to Kirkby once the financial conditions have stabilised.  Finding an additional £5m for this project in the current financial climate just isn’t an option – particularly when our residents need our support to get through the cost of living crisis.

“Even so, we should all be proud of what has been achieved over the last few years in extremely challenging conditions and I look forward to progressing our plans even further over the coming months and years.”