Marks & Spencer has agreed terms for an M&S Foodhall at Market Walk, as contractor Eric Wright prepares to start work on the eight-unit expansion of the council-owned shopping centre.
An overall package of £17m was signed off for the extension in 2017, and Eric Wright appointed in January, but M&S has taken its time to complete a deal – nevertheless, the agreement will be greeted with delight in Chorley given the retailer’s issues elsewhere.
Reel Cinemas will operate a six-screen auditorium at Market Walk, while café bar group Loungers has signed for another of the extension’s units. The M&S Foodhall will include a click and collect service for the embattled retail group’s clothing and home services.
M&S has closed several stores this year,but is pressing ahead with plans to support what has proven to be a consistently profitable part of the business. Regional closures include large format stores in Stockport and Birkenhead and an outlet in Denton, while its commitment to Rochdale Riverside is in the balance. M&S is said to still be in talks with Oldham for a food store, having pulled out of plans to anchor the Princes Gate development with an all-lines store.
Cllr Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “The news that Marks & Spencer has signed its contract is a major boost for the development and for the town centre as a whole.
“We’ve all seen in the media that new store openings are at a premium so for Marks and Spencer to choose Chorley shows they have a lot of confidence in what we are doing.
“With several major developments taking place in the borough, including the digital office park, this news sends out a strong message that Chorley is a place on the up and a great location for businesses to invest.”
The council said that negotiations are continuing on all the units with a range of businesses including a high street restaurant chain, a high quality regional leisure/restaurant operator and a national gym chain.
Rob Morray, head of property planning at M&S, said “As we transform M&S we’re creating a conveniently located network of food stores that offer customers great food and a next-day collect in store service for clothing & home purchases.
“As part of this work we’re looking forward to bringing a new Marks & Spencer to the North West by opening a Foodhall in Chorley. We’ll update the community on what our store will offer and job opportunities as plans progress.”
The shopping centre extension is due to open in time for Christmas trading in 2019. Lambert Smith Hampton in Manchester and Knight Frank in London are acting as agents.