Signing Marks and Spencer is a big coup for Whiteley

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We’ve had more than enough bad news on the economic front this year and, with the Euro crisis continuing to come to a head, it’s safe to say that regrettably we have not had the last of gloom and despondency.

But amid the undoubted problems for firms nationwide, there remains a strength and determination to succeed and expand whatever the difficulties faced.

That spirit of enterprise and innovation will be celebrated next month at The News Business Excellence Awards, at which firms and individuals that have excelled will be honoured in front of their peers. And today we are pleased to report another example of confidence in the future.

It comes in the shape of confirmation by two major retailers that they will be part of the multi-million pound revitalisation of Whiteley. Marks and Spencer and the clothes chain Next have each pledged to open in the traditional-style town centre being built to replace the failed outlet shopping village.

It is good news indeed, not least because it marks the passing of a milestone – more than half of the development’s 300,000 sq ft of retail floor space has now been reserved by companies keen to play a part in the reinvigoration of the town.

The Marks and Spencer announcement is of particular note, it being in the ‘Premier League’ of select stores that any town’s residents would wish for.

The store itself will be a substantial presence, space-wise as well as image wise – its 60,000sq ft being nearly three times as big as the Fareham M&S department store. Other big-name stores are already committed to Whiteley and the M&S announcement can only enhance the appeal of the town to any which have not yet signed up.

Fareham’s council leader Sean Woodward has warned that the new development is too large for a community the size of Whiteley and will draw trade from other areas. But that should be seen as a challenge to Fareham, which has a fine shopping centre of its own, rather than a threat. In these troubled times, a competitive environment surely has to be welcomed.