SEVENTY jobs are on the way to Hartlepool after a store chain revealed plans to move into the town centre.
TJ Hughes is moving in to the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, in the former Westgate unit next to Primark, and centre bosses say this could be the first in a string of big new arrivals.
TJ Hughes has signed a 10-year lease to move into the centre and it will be the 11th UK store for the Liverpool-based retailer, which specialises in famous brands at discounted prices.
It will be taking a 38,000 sq ft unit.
Shopping centre manager Mark Rycraft said: “TJ Hughes will be a great addition to the mix of retailers we have in the centre and we look forward to welcoming them in the early autumn.
“Taking our largest unit shows a real commitment from TJ Hughes – for both the centre and the town.
“We are confident that this announcement is also the start of a series of new store opening announcements over the coming months. Each will continue to demonstrate our commitment to our shoppers and the centre’s future.”
Mr Rycraft revealed to the Hartlepool Mail how the centre is bidding to attract other large-scale retailers.
He said the unit taken by TJ Hughes was the biggest in the centre and added: “One of the other options available to us is to knock units together and we are looking at that to create a bigger space for retailers.”
He added: “We have got retailers interested in Middleton Grange and, through this new commitment, we hope that this will be the catalyst for further discussions to have with other retailers”.
TJ Hughes chief executive Anil Juneja, said: “I am delighted to be opening in the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre. The TJ Hughes offering is perfect for the current economic climate, famous brands that people know and trust at affordable prices to suit every household budget, there is something there for all the family.”
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “This is fantastic news for the shopping centre and the town as a whole.
“With the recent launch of the Hartlepool Vision, we are looking forward to a bright and exciting future for Hartlepool and this announcement clearly demonstrates that TJ Hughes shares our confidence.”
The positive development has been welcomed after M&S made the announcement in late July that it was planning to move to the Anchor Retail Park after decades of being based at Middleton Grange.
All of the 50 staff at the Middleton Grange Shopping Centre M&S branch will be offered jobs at the new outlet where bosses are promising “an improved shopping experience” with a bigger food selection and a cafe.
At the time, Mail readers said they feared the M&S move could be the “nail in the coffin” for Middleton Grange - but shopping centre chiefs hit back saying they were expecting positive developments soon.
Their predictions came true when TJ Hughes confirmed its move.
TJ Hughes is a discount department store which specialises in products for the home and fashion sector, as well as fragrance and cosmetics, technology and electricals. It trades from in department stores nationwide as well as on line.
The company employs around 700 people.