MORE big name stores look set to follow Next, H&M and TK Maxx out of Hereford’s historic city centre.
The Hereford Times has this week seen floor plans showing how Fat Face, Clarks, Vodafone and River Island are all lined up for a move onto the Old Market development.
The first three firms are already based in and around High Town while River Island lost its city centre presence during a huge fire in 2010.
One independent retailer believes High Town could take five years to “evolve and readjust”
to the changes brought about by the opening of the new retail complex in the spring.
Old Market developer Stanhope is also hoping to bring beauty store L’Occitane en Provence in and has hailed the fact that just 10% of the site is still available.
But Luke Conod, owner of city fashion store FIT, is angry at the way Stanhope has approached national firms already established in Hereford.
The disappointment, added Mr Conod, is that Herefordshire Council relaxed its policy of to whom developers could let. In documents released last year, Hereford Futures pledged its vision of attracting new businesses but it also stated that Stanhope must seek formal approval from Herefordshire Council on any lettings.
Despite being the city ward’s representative, It’s Our County councillor Mark Hubbard said neither his approval nor his oversight have been sought on any letting and he too believes that the council has failed at the negotiating table, specifically in its responsibility to protect existing businesses.
Stanhope director Gary Bourne defended the way national chain stores had been approached.
He said: “Modern retailer requirements have changed significantly and many now demand high specification, larger units in fewer locations nationally.
“TK Maxx and Next have both indicated that the Old Market is currently the only viable site in Hereford to accommodate their modern format.”
And, at a time when no other regional city is attracting such levels of private investment, Mr Bourne said that bigger stores for existing retailers, as well as new names, will only enhance Hereford’s reputation.
Mr Conod agreed that the Old Market would be good from a shoppers’ point of view, adding that it would also make the city a destination.
But he also urged the public to continue supporting High Town and saw some reasons to be cheerful.
“From department stores to supermarkets, the high street has always found a way to evolve,” he added.
“But I think it will take High Town around five years to readjust – as would be the case anywhere else.”