Jobs joy for Doncaster town centre

Good news: Amanda Phillips outside the new store site.

Good news: Amanda Phillips outside the new store site.

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DONCASTER is bucking the doom and gloom with news that the former Woolworths store is now fully let.

Shoe giant Deichmann is due to move into the Frenchgate Centre creating jobs and completing the letting of the ex-Woolies store in the latest signal that Doncaster is weathering the recession better than many towns.

The outlook was gloomy when Woolworths went into adimistration closing some 800 stores in early 2009 and there were fears that larger stores like the Frenchgate two-storey site would be particularly hard to re-let. But Swedish hardware firm Clas Olson opened in December 2010 and long-standing tenant Wilkinsons, the Worksop-based homewares store, opened an extension to its store earlier this year, filling some of the vacant Woolworths’ space.

Deichmann- the German firm that is the largest footwear retailer in Europe - opens in the centre in mid-August filling the remaining space and creating a minimum of 15 jobs.

Centre boss Amanda Phillips is delighted with the news: “For the Frenchgate Shopping Centre it is a great step. The space that was left by Woolworths after they went into administration is now full, our vacancy rate is extremely low and we have a number of independents that are due to open soon.

“This is fantastic for Doncaster and our shoppers.”

Only last week a major survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers pointed to the town’s shop openings as evidence that it was starting to recover from the economic downturn.

According to the firm, the number of stores opening in the town rose by 20 last year, as 48 opened but 20 closed. The figure of 20 was the second-highest in Yorkshire, second only behind affluent and up-market Harrogate.

Deichmann arrived in the UK in 2001 offering a fast turnaround “rack room” system stocking big name brands.

“We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming Deichmann to the Frenchgate Shopping Centre. They are a major retailer and exactly the kind of business that we want in the centre, “said Amanda.

“We have a fantastic mix of strong independent stores and well-known high street names, which gives us an extremely strong offering,” added Amanda.

In a separate development that is seen as a boost to the town, local property developer Lazarus is planning to turn the historic Kings Arcade off St Sepulchre Gate into “boutique” shops and cafes to take advantage of its proximity to the Frenchgate’s shopping and transport hubs.

And the former Odeon Arcade in Hall Gate - one of the town’s oldest eyesores - is finally being demolished in preparation for the site to be redeveloped by owners Lazarus. The original cinema shops arcade was pulled down in the 1980s but became a blight on the area after a fire in a nearby building in the 1990s.