‘Please support us’ is rallying cry from Chalmers

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Staff at Chalmers in Oban have issued a rally cry for shoppers to return as it reopens its doors tomorrow (Tuesday) after a whirlwind weekend.

News finally broke on Friday that operator Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM) has formally gone into administration after talks over a potential rescue deal and massive uncertainty for thousands of worried staff.

However, on Saturday, word came through that the Chalmers premises at 42-26 George Street – which has been closed for seven months and failed to reopen when high street shopping returned – would now be reopening on Tuesday from 10am with its five original members of staff.

Under the administrators, it will trade again seven days a week, including 11am-4pm on Sundays.

Its long term future rests on a buyer being found and the shop being able to demonstrate viability in the countdown to Christmas.

Manageress Helen Hetherington has been employed there for 12 years and described it as a ‘family’, with staff members Mary, Iona, Morvern, and Kimberley all dedicated to their roles.

Mrs Hetherington issued a rally cry to shoppers who have sent well-wishes, saying: ‘Please, please, come and support us.’

She said: ‘My staff are absolutely ecstatic but obviously a question remains over how long are we actually going to stay open for.’

Closing down posters will be going up, but Mrs Hetherington emphasised: ‘Hopefully we are going to keep trading, show that we are profitable and get a buyer.’

She added: ‘It would be devastating if Chalmers were to close – not just for the sake of our jobs – but it’s such a memorable building in Oban.

‘We still have people saying they used to run around in the revolving doors as children, and we get visitors from America and China coming back three or four years later, and Christmas cards from customers.’

‘We love our store and go above and beyond to keep our customers happy, and once you work at Chalmers you are part of the family.’

The store remained closed throughout the summer when tourists flocked back to Oban as restrictions were lifted and the new store will have to trade with a lockdown in place in England, limiting custom from its near neighbours.

Mrs Hetherington ensured that food, such as biscuits, was saved and distributed to the needy rather than thrown away.

The neighbouring Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop has closed and emptied with up to four members of staff made redundant last Friday.

On Monday, staff at the EWM-run McCaig’s Warehouse were said to be still waiting on news.

Argyll Mansions was built for William Chalmers who had a drapery shop on the site but who wanted to expand to cater for the increasing number of visitors, according to the Oban Communities Trust.

His new shop was known as ‘Chalmers Highland Tweed Warehouse’ and notable patrons included Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra.

Trading on the site is said to date back 197 years.