FOUR new major businesses will open branches at a retail park in Abingdon despite the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the local economy.
The new stores, which are set to create around 100 new jobs, will take over the vacant units on the Fairacres Retail Park on Marcham Road.
Budget supermarket Lidl will be open its doors soon, followed by Costa Coffee and The Gym.
A giant 23,800sq Homebase is also scheduled to open in the autumn.
Richard May, director of the family-run real estate company Mays Properties Ltd (MPL), which owns the park, said that this is a ‘significant vote of confidence’ for Abingdon from the operators in the hard hit hospitality sector.
Speaking about the investment, he added that this is ‘very positive’ news and it shows that the town is ‘bucking the trend’.
As well as new job opportunities, the new businesses will give Abingdon residents access to shops and hospitality that could previously only be found in competing nearby towns.
Mr May commented further: “We are hoping that this will act as a significant catalyst for new investment and jobs in other parts of the town, and shows that Abingdon is open for business and has a lot to offer.
“We have worked very hard with our existing tenants on the Retail Park to help them through the impact of Covid 19 and we will continue to provide whatever financial and other assistance we can to make sure they emerge from the pandemic in a healthy position.”
However, it is not all good news for the retailers at Fairacres as the future of one business and its employees remains uncertain.
Mr May revealed he is ‘concerned’ about what will happen to the Argos store at the park as owners Sainsbury’s have formally announced their intention to reduce the brand’s property portfolio from around 450 to 100 stores.
With the lease expiring in March next year, MPL’s director said that it is ‘highly likely’ that the supermarket will shut the branch.
He added: “We would be sorry to see Argos go, they have been good for the retail park and for Abingdon as a whole, but Sainsburys will be viewing this from a national rather than a local level.
“In order to retain local jobs and to avoid being left with a vacant unit, we have taken the decision to be pro-active so as to ensure that, should Argos vacate the unit, it can be quickly re-let and jobs retained on the park.”
As Mr May announced that the Phase 2 redevelopment of the site has been completed, he also revealed plans to bring a Marks & Spencer foodhall to Unit B, in what would be a further significant boost for the town.
The foodhall would take the place of Argos if its lease is not renewed.
A planning application to allow M&S to trade from this unit has already been submitted to the district council and, if approved, it would result in the creation of 55 jobs.
MPL’s director added that the what would be an empty unit is ‘ideal’ for the supermarket’s requirements and for the retail park, as it will encourage more shoppers to visit.
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