What’s going on at the old Focus store on Northgate, then?

Images taken last weekend.

Lots of you have contacted me asking about the works currently ongoing at the former Focus DIY store on the corner of Coppice Lane and Northgate, Walsall Wood.

Local gossip had it for a long time that the former Focus store on the corner of Coppice Lane and Northgate on the Walsall Wood/Aldridge border was to be taken over by Asda. This wasn’t true, but in August 2014, B&M Retail applied for a variation in planning conditions to convert the derelict building into another branch – permission which they recently gained, and now work has started on the derelict site, as many have noted and contacted me about.

The application is reference 14/1090/FL ‘Variation of condition 2 of permission BC27983P (as previously varied by permission BC57615P) to vary the range of goods sold from the premises.’

The planning application form detailing this change can be seen here; note that they try to mask who the applicant is under the name ‘Berkeley Leisure’ but fail to notice the B&M reference in item 6. One must assume that that’s who the work is being undertaken for.

B&M are very popular in Brownhills and Lichfield, and this would remove a derelict eyesore from the local environment, so I’m all for it to be honest. They seem to have employed a local construction company, too, which can’t be bad.

Best of luck to them, and I hope they do well.

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15 Responses to What’s going on at the old Focus store on Northgate, then?

  1. beckyt2015 says:

    Thanks for the detailed update.
    I know some local nearby shops are not happy and fear it could affect their trade and knew nothing about it until the last week. Tesco Express at lights is also closing.

    I worry for the future of the
    the Brownhills B&M store to be honest a young lad said in the local shop I was in “it will be a much bigger store the Walsall Wood one carrying a higher range of stock and everyone will go there instead of Brownhills B&M”.

    I also suspect they are starting to run down the Brownhills one as there are a lot more clearance items around than usual and it just feels that way, be interwsted to see if other regular users have noticed? I hope I’m wrong and the area can sustain two B&M’s so close.

    Good that the Walsall Wood site is being developed but I hope it’s not at the expense of local shopkeepers in Walsall Wood or Brownhills.

    A Range or Dunelm would have been much better giving more diversity and not affecting other businesses.

    Why did they try and conceal who the company where on the planning apllication?

    • Becky, for heavens sake, must everything be negative?

      If local shops knew nothing about it, there’s no reason; The application has been in the public domain since is was made last summer, and I publicised it then, and it was also in the local press.

      There is no threat to Brownhills B&M.It’ can’t be bigger, because the floor area of the two is specified as being nearly identical. B&M would be mad to close Brownhills which is clearly making money hand over fist. Clearance items? Isn’t that what they specialise in?

      If you want to get Range or Dunelm in here, work to attract them. The applicant was B&M, and this is how a market economy works.

      It’s usual to conceal applicant details in such cases, mainly for business reasons. The application is for relaxation of conditions, and objections should be applicant agnostic.


  2. Alan Dawson says:

    Should have been an Asda store & nothing else

    • Asda were never interested in it – it was a rumour spread virally by someone misunderstanding a news report (ASDA bought some old Focus stores, but were very selective about which ones – Aldridge didn’t remotely fit the profile.)

      Perhaps you’d rather it stayed derelict?


  3. peter says:

    The B&M business model is quite simple really….. pile it high and sell it cheap, although the profits, from what must be assumed are firmly slim margins, are healthy enough to open another new store, there must have been an awful lot of research performed before the decision was taken to invest in another store opportunity, these decisions are not taken lightly. There is competition locally, albeit much smaller and I’m certain the Brownhills branch will lose some business to the new store, but they must be confident it’ll work.
    I presume the store was built originally as an early example of “out of town retail shopping” I remember it being a Big K and Do It All and more recently of course Focus, has it been anything else? Always wondered why the road adjacent to the store is called Longleat? Why? Any Ideas?
    Keep up the good work……….


    • beckyt2015 says:

      Their business model does not normally have stores so close they are normally approximately 4/5 miles apart.

      Why did they not purchase Walsall Wood Store from offset I truly sympathise with Andy’s post on this. Probably because the lrice has dropped significantly since!

      I’m really not being negative but realistic and it will have a knock on effect to Home Bargains in Aldridge as well. We’ve seen very recently Aldridge could not sustain two cheap shops like this.

      A Range although not sadly within the control of the planning authority or me would have not bought the same level of competition to the area and other stores.

      I do not agree the floor space is the same from my memory the apllication refers to floor space tbey are applying to change use on.

      B&M are also taking a new store in Walsall town.

      Anyway nothing any of us can do about it.

      • Becky

        You are, you’re relentlessly negative.

        B&M have grown exponentially in the few years since they purchased the Brownhills store. If you study the application (might be worthwhile, since you’re expressing a strong opinion) they are opening a ‘Home’ variant of their store, a relatively new addition to their retail approach – this will sell bigger stuff like garden furniture, electricals, etc.

        Whether you agree on floorspce or not, the facts stand.

        This means it’s not really in competition with their tat bazaar at Brownhills or Home Bargains in Aldridge.

        It really is utterly heartbreaking to see a company take on a formerly empty site that was a magnet for ASB, and invest time and money creating jobs and business. Obviously, such a serious situation requires that we condemn it before it’s opened, condemn the fact that it wasn’t open sooner, whilst all the time wishing it was something else. If we can actually throw in some doubt over jobs in Brownhills, too, that would be really great.

        This is a free market economy. I’d love lots of things to open here, but it’s capitalism for you. Focus in Aldridge has been empty too long. I wish B&M well.


      • I’ll just draw your attention to the following, from the very detailed ‘Supporting Retail Assessment’ free to peruse on the application:

        2.1 B&M Retail Ltd is one of the UK’s fastest growing retailers and over the last 5 years the chain has grown from 21 stores to in excess of 325 stores. The business is based on a discount retail format, particularly targeting shoppers on restricted incomes, it has grown strongly through the recession. B&M Retail Limited (B&M) had only 21 stores seven years ago. Today it enjoys a turnover in excess of £950m per annum, and it employs some 13,000 staff. Over 10,000 of those jobs have been created in the last 5 years. The company is recognised in the Sunday Times Top Track 100 and the Sunday Times Fast Track 100. These accolades and the growth of the business are a testament to the popularity of this retailer in the current economic climate.

        2.2 The primary activity of the “B&M Homestore” business is retailing of what are generally regarded as bulky and comparison goods. These include indoor and outdoor furniture, greening products, home textiles, household goods, housewares including small domestic electrical goods, home adornment, seasonal items particularly Christmas and garden centre items, paint, wallpaper and DIY products. These product categories account for approximately 70%-75% of the floor space and sales within the average B&M Homestore.

        So what you’re actually going to see is something not to dissimilar to the old Focus, but probably cheaper. It’s an interesting document and well worth a read.


        • beckyt2015 says:

          All very interesting I disagree they are the same as Focus or similar apart from paint and paper some DIY stuff and garden items.. The description is well economical IMO. They also sell a large amount of low priced food including basics and a high amount of general cleaning items.

          You cant buy a new kitchen there or bathroom other DIY items. The stock is limited and is very similar to Home bargains.

          A small amount of furniture which is decreasing at Brownhills as our other items..
          Cheap toys, stationery and cheap electrical items, general shabby chic low end stuff and a few clothing items for kids.

          I like B&M I shop there a lot in Brownhills, my point was it will be one less reason to go there as the new one will be much nearer easy to get to etc, more stock like Reedswood one and a better car park. I won’t be alone in that.

          Absolutely free market economy,nothing as I said we can do about it.

          I don’t share you joy over another B&M yes its good the site is going to be occupied thats a plus and if that makes me a relentless negative so be it, only time will tell.

          • Awww, Becky, read the documentation, for heaven’s sake.

            Thanks for explaining what B&M Bargains in Brownhills sells. I’ve never been in. I’ve always found it an amusing barometer of B&Ms success that the burger van moved from outside Tesco to outside B&M. Market forces.

            B&M Home are a different type of store to B&M Bargains. B&M Bargains is what we already have, B&M Home is what’s opening in Aldridge.

            The Supporting Retail Statement is actually quite explicit about what they will sell and how they’ll go about it – because after all, the application is to vary the consent about what can be sold on site.Like I say, try reading it. It’s also very explicit about competition, target market etc.

            No, you probably can’t buy kitchens. But since you’re dead set against local competition, that won’t be harming local kitchen companies. I think B&M know well that following the Focus model totally would probably lead them to the same place as Focus.

            You do also realise that moving on to that site now will have cost them more, not less, too? After all, they’ve had to re-roof the place, clean it up and the site won’t have been any cheaper than it was in a bankruptcy firesale.

            Becky, you’d suck the joy out of a rice pudding.


  4. Andy Harvey says:

    I worked at the old focus store for over 26 years and have many happy memories of the place not only the newer building but also the old one which stood on the car park.The store made a good profit and although I’m happy its going to be used again I am a bit miffed that they could not put a bid in for the store before it closed so at least my colleagues who worked there may have had a chance to carry on working instead of being made redundant. All seems a little cynical to me!

  5. beckyt2015 says:

    I remember you very well Andy as you were always so helpful. All the staff were great but you were the best. 🙂 Do hope you found another job? X

  6. Andy Harvey says:

    Hi Becky,thank you for the very kind words the great thing about working there so long were the staff and our loyal regular customers. I can understand your feelings about b and m taking the site on but it must be having to pay out a lot of money to bring the store back up to standards again and fair play to them, at least it was not B&Q who put posters up on the site as soon as we closed, that really hurt. I’m working for the Bristan group now at the head office in Tamworth been there for a year and a half now and really happy 🙂

  7. beckyt2015 says:

    Hi Andy

    Really glad its worked out for you and you are happy in your new job.

    My only concern about B&M taking on the site is the affect it will have on Brownhills footfall.

    Never use B&Q far too expensive. We go to a hardware shop in Rushall now for most DIY things, great service and much cheaper, nothing is too much trouble for them just like the old days at Focus. Small indepedent hardware shops are making a bit of a comeback which is good to see. A lot of tradesmen use them as well.

    Take care.


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