A NEW branch of a major international clothes retailer is opening its doors next week in Hastings, creating up to 20 jobs.
H&M will open in Priory Meadow shopping centre on Thursday (March 27) to customers.
The news comes as welcome after the town centre has seen turbulent times since the end of 2011, with shops moving out or going into administration.
H&M’s arrival also comes as Priory Meadow shopping centre, which was opened by the Queen in 1997, is set to undergo a major £2 million investment programme and rebranding in June.
John Hough, its manager, said: “There is no doubt that H&M represents a real step change in our offer to customers, and this follows on from the recent lettings to tReds and Pandora which have traded very well here since opening. I’m exceptionally pleased to welcome H&M to Priory Meadow and look forward to working with its team.”
Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “The arrival of H&M in Priory Meadow is great news for the centre and for the town. Occupying three units this will be a key site within the shopping centre, offering two floors of great fashion for all at affordable prices. The aim is to keep Hastings residents spending in our town and to attract in people from the surrounding area which is good for business, good for the local economy and good for jobs.
“We are very pleased to be involved with the substantial investment and refurbishment which will see the council putting in £200,000. As the freeholder, the council puts in 10 per cent of the investment but gets back 10 per cent of the additional income.”
Frances Ferguson, H&M store manager, said: “We are getting ready for our launch next week, and I’m really looking forward to working in Priory Meadow, and welcoming customers to our brand new shop which offers an extensive range of quality fashion wear.”
H&M, which is headquartered in Sweden, has been present in the UK since 1976, having opened its first UK store in Brent Cross Shopping Centre in north London.
It has 242 stores across the UK and Ireland.
Carlos Duarte, H&M’s country manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “At H&M we pride ourselves on being able to offer something for everyone, and with Hastings being such a historic town attracting visitors from around the world, we can offer enjoyable shopping experiences to those visiting the area as well as local residents.”
H&M, which will occupy around 1,500 square metres, takes up the three units left vacant by clothes retailers Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burton after they moved out of Hastings in June last year.
Since the end of 2011 several high street chain shops in Hastings have gone into administration and closed down.
In January 2013, Blockbuster Video in Queens Road and five people working at Jessops in Priory Meadow lost their jobs when the camera retailer shut. HMV also went into administration January last year but the Priory Meadow store was saved from closure.
Clothing chain Next shut its Priory Meadow shop at the end of 2011. Past Times shut its doors at the start of January 2012 after the company, which specialised in retro-themed gifts, went bust. The Early Learning Centre’s Priory Meadow store also closed in February 2012.
In March 2012 GAME and GameStation filed for administration. GAME’s Priory Meadow branch was saved after a new company bought the video games retailer. But GameStation’s shop in Queens Road closed down.
Since last year however several new shops have moved into Priory Meadow, with tReds opening up shop last June and Specsavers expanding its existing branch last month. Jewellery company Pandora has also set up shop.