We're backing Beatties: Bully and Jacqui join fight to save Wolverhampton store
“I can't imagine Wolverhampton without Beatties.”
These are the words of Wolverhampton-born sports presenter Jacqui Oatley MBE, who has backed the Express & Star’s campaign to keep the iconic store open.
As discussions take place between the store’s new owners Sports Direct and its landlords, Ms Oatley has added her weight to calls for the 141-year-old department shop to be rescued.
It is one of dozens of House of Fraser stores, including Rackhams in Birmingham, which had been earmarked for closure but are now under the ownership of Sports Director boss Mike Ashley following the collapse of the chain.
Vote now: Should Beatties stay open?
He has vowed to keep 80 per cent of the stores open, and has already said House of Fraser shops in Telford, Plymouth and Oxford Street in London will not close.
In response, the Express & Star launched a campaign for Beatties, taken over by House of Fraser in 2005, to remain open.
It has so far had the support of more than 6,500 readers as well as city MPs, DJ Dicky Dodd and Britain’s Got Talent star Donchez Dacres.
The latest name to the backers is Ms Oatley, who grew up in Codsall and studied at St Dominic’s in Brewood and Wolverhampton Grammar School.
The sports presenter, who was the first female commentator on Match of The Day and now lives in Surrey, said: “Beatties has been the heartbeat of Wolverhampton’s town – later city – centre for as long as I can remember.
“The quality of service and feeling of it being in the hub of the community gave us a reason to travel into the centre of town, even after newly built retail parks had started to provide competition.
“I can’t imagine Wolverhampton without Beatties and very much hope that the new ownership recognise the benefits of retaining it as the focal point of our fine city.”
Also to add their support in the fight to save Beatties from closure was Wolves record goalscorer Steve Bull.
He had a picture taken of him holding a ‘we’re backing Beatties’ banner at his home yesterday and previously opened the Beatties sports department in 1996.
Bully, who said he gets perfume for his wife from the store, said: “In Wolverhampton, Beatties was and still is the shop to go to. You could get anything there.
“Growing up, when I got some extra cash, I used to go along, buy some clothes, some shoes. You knew you were buying quality.”
He called on Mr Ashley to keep it open, adding: “The store has been there for years, they should pull out all the stops to keep it open. It is Wolverhampton, if it went, it would impact many people and would be massively missed.
Meanwhile, Henry Carver, Wolverhampton Business Forum president, said it was a ‘difficult time’ for the city.
He said: “The new owners will need to take a close look at the viability of the store.
“Of course, we all want it to remain open, however for the long-term future of the site, a study will have to be done.
“This is a difficult time for everyone.”
The department store was opened in 1877 by James Beattie as the Victoria Draper Supply Store.
It suffered two fires, in 1896 and 1912, but benefited from the installation of the Art Deco frontage in the 1920s. It grew in size over the decades before, in 2005, House of Fraser purchased the store for £47m.
As part of the campaign, the Express & Star is collecting memories and pictures which will feature in a dossier sent to Mr Ashley.
To send in your memories email firstname.lastname@example.org or post them to 51-53 Queen Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1ES.