New fashion shops set to come to town

THREE national fashion retailers are set to come to Priory Meadow in the New Year.

The shopping centre’s management said it was currently in advanced negotiations with the chains but remained tight-lipped about their names.

In recent months, four new shops have moved into Priory Meadow - art and textiles store Inside Out, Glance, specialising in women’s fashionwear, gift shop The Present People, and El Delicio Mexicana.

The openings are a far cry from the series of shop closures that hit town centre trade last Christmas and the early part of this year.

Clothing chain Next, which employed around 20 staff, closed its Priory Meadow shop on December 29 last year.

Past Times shut its doors at the start of January this year after the company, which specialised in retro-themed gifts, fell victim to the recession. The Early Learning Centre’s Priory Meadow store closed in February.

It was also feared that clothing store Peacocks, in Queens Road, and Bonmarché, Priory Meadow, would cease trading after they went into administration in January.

But Edinburgh Woollen Mill bought 338 of the Cardiff-based company’s stores, including the Hastings branch, saving 19 jobs there. Bonmarché, which was owned by the same company, the Peacock Group, was also snapped up by private equity firm Sun European Partners. It closed 160 of the clothing chain’s shops but the Priory Meadow shop was one of 230 Bonmarche stores to be saved.

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow shopping centre, said: “I can confirm that we are in fairly advanced discussions with three national fashion retailers that would be new to Hastings in 2013 if all goes to plan.

“In spite of the downturn it’s important to note there is real interest from the retail fashion sector in terms of trading opportunity that Priory Meadow can offer.

“An important element to this is when agents actually visit us and we sit down and talk about the uniqueness of the place.

“Efforts are put in to make a visit here ‘more than just a trip to the shops’.”