Today, just two out of the seven shops in this block at the heart of Dudley town centre are still in business.
In the past eight months, five out of the seven shops in the block on the corner of Stone Street and High Street have shut as the impact of the coronavirus has taken its toll.
The most recent casualty is Kirner Jewellers at the entrance to the Fountain Arcade, which closed last month after 164 years.
A notice was posted on the shutters informing customers that the shop was now closed, and directing anybody who had taken items in for repair to contact Metz Wilkins jewellers in Bilston.
Since the first lockdown in March, River Island, Bonmarche, Boots pharmacy and Roger Scott menswear have all closed their doors.
Only the Gizmo pawnbrokers and The Whole Hog sandwich shop are still trading, although Gizmo has been forced to temporarily close as part of the lockdown rules.
Not all of the closures can be blamed on the virus. Roger Scott, which had been in the town centre for 25 years after taking over the former Alex Young menswear store, had been planning to close for some time due to the owner’s impending retirement.
Indeed, Roger Scott-Dow, a former Dudley councillor, said that if anything the lockdown had delayed the closure as it disrupted his closing down sale. The store finally shut its doors in August.
Before the closure, Kirner Jewellers had posted signs on the windows explaining how as a small business the coronavirus had forced it to alter the way it operated.
River Island, like all non-essential retailers, was ordered to shut as part of the nationwide lockdown announced by the Prime Minister on March 23.
But when the Government announced that non-essential shops would be allowed to open in June, River Island announced that the Dudley shop would not be reopening.
Bonmarche’s financial problems have been well documented. The chain was placed into administration in October 2019, before being bought out by Edinburgh Woollen Mill.
A closing down sale began in February, but was halted by the lockdown. The shop has since been emptied. Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which also owns the Peacocks shop at the other end of the market place, is also now in administration, with the Peacock’s branch earmarked for closure.
The Boots branch, on the very corner of the block, was always likely to be vulnerable, given that the chain has a much larger store on the other side of the market place. The small pharmacy is a legacy of Boots’ takeover of rival Timothy Whites, although Boots had retained it for more than half a century.