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Blow to Christmas shopping period as B&M confirms Lowestoft store will not open in time for rush

PUBLISHED: 13:17 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:17 02 November 2017

The Britten Centre entrance to BHS in Lowestoft. Picture: David Hannant

The Britten Centre entrance to BHS in Lowestoft. Picture: David Hannant

Archant

The Christmas shopping period in Lowestoft has been dealt a big blow, as it has emerged a major high street unit will remain empty until the new year.

Staff past and present gather at the Lowestoft branch of BHS on the last day of trading.

PHOTO: Nick Butcher Staff past and present gather at the Lowestoft branch of BHS on the last day of trading. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

It had been hoped that the former BHS unit on London Road North would be fully operational in time for the festive shopping rush, with retail giants B&M having agreed to take it on.

The agreement was made some weeks ago, however, this newspaper can reveal the store will not be open in time for Christmas, after refurbishments works were delayed.

It means that shoppers will have to wait until the new year for B&M to arrive in the town, with a firm opening date still to be confirmed.

A B&M spokesman said: “Unfortunately, we have had to delay the opening of the store due to refurbishment taking longer than expected.

“We hope to have it open early next year and welcome our new customers through the door.”

The news has come as a blow to the town’s high street, as the unit has been empty for more than a year, following the closure of BHS.

Dan Poitras, centre manager of the Britten Centre, which the unit joins on to, said: “The delays are rather disappointing, as it would have been a big boost to have B&M open in time for the Christmas period.

“However, I am still hopeful it will be a busy period - footfall does look up to me and Lowestoft Vision has organised some great events as part of its Christmas Spectacular. I’m hopeful people will come out and do some shopping.”

Rumours of B&M taking on the BHS unit began circling in August, however, when approached by this newspaper for confirmation, the company denied the move would be happening.

However, less than a week later, it then began advertising on its website for managerial staff to run the store, before confirming in fact that it would be the new tenant of the unit.

At the time, a spokesman for B&M said there were no plans to move to the town, but it would “welcome the opportunity to invest in the region”.

The former BHS unit has been empty since August 2016, when the company closed all its branches, meaning it will be the second consecutive Christmas period the unit has been unoccupied.

B&M was unable to confirm how many new jobs the store will create.

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