MARKS and Spencer is eyeing up yet another store in Havant borough – with businesses saying it’s another sign the town is on the up.
Last month the retailer opened a Simply Food in Wellington Retail Park, in Waterlooville.
Now a spokesman has confirmed it is interested in coming to what will be the expanded Solent Retail Park.
And it comes as the much-derided Meridian Centre, in West Street, looks set to be almost full for the first time in many years as businesses from West Street and Market Parade move there to make way for redevelopment.
Kevin Briscoe, chairman of the Portsmouth Area Committee of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said a Marks and Spencer store would be ‘a real vote of confidence in the town from one of the country’s leading retailers.’
He added: ‘Many of our town centres have suffered in the recession but this decision to open a store just a short walk from the heart of the town is a really clear signal that things are on the up once again.
‘It is important because decisions like this one by Marks and Spencer do not go unnoticed by other retailers – so if this means other familiar high street names are also tempted to the town then that can only be for the good of everyone associated with Havant.’
The redevelopment of other parts of the town centre is also having an impact.
Terry Jordan, the owner of Ink World, in Market Parade, is moving to the Meridian Centre, in West Street, in August. Schoolkit, next door, is set to move to the shopping centre in September.
Market Parade – the gateway to Havant from the railway station – is set to be transformed with restaurants on the ground floor and flats above.
Ponden Mill is also moving to the Meridian Centre because the Post Office is set to take over its unit at the top of West Street.
Mr Jordan, the chairman of Havant Business Association said: ‘M&S will be great for Havant. We have come to the conclusion with the redevelopment of Market Parade that the town centre is moving to that side of town.
‘And I don’t think there would be a unit big enough for an M&S in West Street anyway.’
Rob Fryer, manager of the Meridian Centre, said: ‘There are some very positive things going on in Havant. There has been a real change in the past six months.’
Marks and Spencer said in a statement: ‘We can confirm an interest in bringing a Simply Food store to Havant, but there are no further details to report at present.’