‘It’ll be a ghost town soon’ – shoppers react to latest store closures at The Fort Shopping Park

It’s one thing arriving at The Fort Shopping Park in a bid to make the most of more than 2,000 free parking spaces. But just getting there means driving over the highway equivalent of ‘plowed fields’ and ‘craters’ say readers reacting to the news that two more more big names are leaving.

As WHSmith prepares to join Wilko this weekend by quitting the Erdington site in 2022, BirminghamLive readers have been contributing their thoughts about the prospects for the giant retail park off the potholed A47 Fort Parkway.

With Alison Clarke predicting: “It will be like a ghost town soon,” Patrick Kelly said: “Who’d have fort it.” Offering a note of compassion, Manda Cole added: “Forts and prayers” whilst Ste Downes arguably wrote many a true word and not in jest: “Waiting on my Amazon delivery. That’s why (shops) are closing down.”

Read more:Huge store will close at The Fort Shopping Park – just weeks after another shut its doors

The Fort Shopping Park was founded 25 years ago this month, but the list of famous names that have left now eclipses those still there – the disappeared include M&S, H&M, HMV, BHS, Carphone Warehouse and Debenhams, not forgetting Arcadia group shops from Topshop , Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge to Warehouse

Of course, some whole companies have disappeared thanks to seismic 21st century shifts in society. Even though people keep having babies, Mothercare failed to survive despite being a store where future parents could park outside ready to look at the bewildering range of child car seats which may or may not fit their vehicle. In contrast, Wilko has just left after only opening six years ago. Later this week we’ll be detailing the stores that remain and what shoppers feel is needed to bring The Fort back up to the promises it set itself back in March 1997 when one of the biggest names in showbusiness came to town.

Doesn’t add up: Bargain books at WHSmith in its closing down week include Carol Vorderman’s Extreme Sudoku as well as the life stories of Dale Winton and Midlands Today anchor Nick Owen and cookery books by Gwyneth Paltrow and Davina McCall

Readers react

Here’s a selection of views from readers reacting to our Facebook post about WHSmith. The high street stalwart was founded 230 years ago in 1792, but clearly no longer wants to be at the site that’s in between Star City Nechells and the Spitfire Island at the center of the A452 boundary between Tyburn, Castle Vale and Castle Bromwich.

Even though a giant Tarmac resurfacing plant opened next to the A47 last year, readers say the roads near to The Fort need work done.

Tim Jackson-Thorpe: Unfortunately The Fort is not such an attractive destination now. The approach roads are like plowed fields. Anchor retailers M&S and Debenhams gone. Surprised it’s not being eyed up for a distribution center.

Mike Anson: Well with the potholes (more like craters) around The Fort, why would you shop there?

Ikkhra Mahmood: I still remember as a kid when my parents would say were going to The Fort we’d all get so excited it was like a proper day out. Now when I think I need to go to The Fort I feel depressed.

Belle du Boiron: My experience is exactly the same! I’m sad Wilko has gone though.

Sad shopping trolley inside WHSmith which is quitting The Fort
Sad shopping trolley inside WHSmith which is quitting The Fort

Aires April: I love the fort, agreed it’s no longer high end only, but more appealing to wider public, car parks are always full, Primark, Superdrug, JD always packed

Jules Deakin: Fort used to be a great place to shop instead of going into town now its just rubbish

Aqib Khan Khan: Fort was a good place I hate going into town as it’s going down hill

Emma Holsey: The sad truth is they are just running it down and will probably clear it and extend the jag. It would have been better to add the other shops from the other side like the range here and keep it going but the more people shop online the more things will go from the high street.

Raheel Shaban: No! Not WHSmith. Where will I go to pay exorbitantly high prices for items you can get much cheaper in any ordinary retailer? I suppose there’s always train stations and airports for them to exploit their customers.

The Fort car park on a rainy day
The Fort car park on a rainy day

Gary Burns: It’s become a dump now, like Star City did …

Sim Cognac: They need to put a Zara there.

Maria Wood: Sad it used to be brilliant.

Wendy Forrester: Bring back M&S

Jozef Nakielski: Everyone is going to Ventura Park, Tamworth.

Chad Blake: Ain’t been there in three years.

Musurrat Hussain: Merry Hill shopping center not the same, city center not the same, Fort shopping center not the same anymore, Retail is dying everywhere.

Daran Philipson: Ironically most of the people commenting, myself included are responsible for the shops closing down all over due to us shopping online…. use the shops or lose them.

August 30, 2020 when Tarmac's giant new asphalt and concrete plant was just a shell next to railway lines in Washwood Heath - Fort Dunlop is in the distance to the right
August 30, 2020 when Tarmac’s new asphalt and concrete plant was just a shell next to railway lines in Washwood Heath

Don Khan: Can’t please the British nation. Never happy with anything …

Kerry Lamb: The Fort would be good if u get public transport there. I’m only down the road, but easier for me to get to Suttun and city center than Fort. It all be closed down soon.

Ste Downes: Waiting on my Amazon delivery. That’s why they’re closing down.

Derek Kirk: I loved going shopping there, British home stores, m & s, burtons, hmv, evans, top man and the pub in the corner a pint and meal. Won’t be long before boots, Poundland close. Opening for cheap and nasty shops. I rather go to Tamworth center, they have everything all in one center. It’s a shame it’s going to empty with the loss of customers and closed shops…

Chris Painting: I used to enjoy The Fort many years ago. However once the local bus no longer traveled that route could no longer go.

One of the many closed units all proclaiming the same message: 'Think Fort First'
One of the many closed units all proclaiming the same message: ‘Think Fort First’

Where is The Fort?

The Fort Shopping Park site was built on reclaimed land in 1996 and masterminded by the Birmingham Heartlands Development Corporation. The address is: 20 Fort Parkway, Birmingham B24 9FP – tel 0121 386 4442 or visit the website here

Opening hours are currently from 9.30am til 8pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 9.30pm til 9pm on Thursday. Weekend opening times are from 9am til 7pm on Saturday and from 11am til 5pm on Sunday.

Its directions ‘by car’ instructions say: “You’ll find the shopping park along the A47, approximately 4.5 miles north east of Birmingham City Center. Exit the M6 ​​at Junction 6 and follow signs for A452 Chester Road and then the A47 which will lead you to The Fort. “

Read more:Greggs to open two new shops in city center – right after huge Primark launch

Watch:Huge crowds at grand opening of Primark at Fort Shopping Park


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