Hughes next to move to town?

ANOTHER major retailer could be on its way to Wigan as the race to fill vacant store space in the town centre hots up.

The newly launched Grand Arcade has brought several high street names to the borough for the first time but others have moved there from other parts of town, leaving their old premises empty.

However, Metro chiefs are increasingly confident of plugging the gaps, and there is even hope that a long-running problem – the basement floor of the Marketgate shopping centre – could finally be solved.

Discount department chain TJ Hughes is understood to be sizing up the premises which has always struggled to attract trade because there is only one way in and out.

Only catalgue firm Index lasted for any length of time.

But Index too has now gone, leaving the floor completely empty, although that could make things easier if a major name wants to move in.

Alternatively, a Metro source said, TJ Hughes is considering the two-storey unit left vacant in the Galleries by Boots when it moved to the Grand Arcade.

The firm itself, however, was remaining tight-lipped today. TJ Hughes property director Richard Foggin said: “Wigan is very much a town in which we would like to have a store and we are aware of one or two opportunities there.

Vacant

“Clearly there is a lot going on there with the new shopping centre but there is nothing on the stocks at the moment.”

One piece of disappointing news is that the former Debenhams store on Standishgate will now remain vacant for a year.

Hardware chain Wilkinsons says it now plans to move into the prominent site only in 2008, leaving something of an image headache.

Wigan town centre manager Mike Matthews said it was “less than ideal” but hoped that developers Modus might be able to use the shop window space for exhibitions – perhaps of the Roman remains found while excavating the Grand Arcade foundations –so as to avoid the building falling victim to fly posters.

Elsewhere momentum is picking up.

The former Next store in Standishgate is soon to become Lime (another name in the Next stable); the fitting out of the old Top Shop unit should begin in the next few days as it turns into Miss Selfridge.

The former River Island site at The Galleries will be occupied by discount clothes store Peacocks.