‘Don’t get your hopes up’ for big stores at Weston-super-Mare’s Dolphin Square

Weston-super-Mare's Dolphin Square development, in Oxford Street.

Weston-super-Mare's Dolphin Square development, in Oxford Street. - Credit: Archant

Big-name retailers looking to open shops in Weston-super-Mare are demanding sums of up to £2million for their services, according to councillors – dealing a fresh blow to the town’s hopes of attracting large shops to Dolphin Square.

The Mercury revealed last week that shops will be built in the final phase of the town’s flagship development, along with 180 flats, and a survey of readers revealed Primark, H&M, Debenhams and River Island are the shops most people would like to see built at the site.

However, the premiums charged by major retailers for opening new stores are so large that the chances of a top brand setting up at Dolphin Square are minimal, according to two senior councillors.

According to North Somerset Council officers, retailers will not consider potential future footfall when looking at where to open new sites – meaning the huge population increase which is likely to arise from new housing developments in the town will have no impact on present plans for Dolphin Square.

Central ward councillor Richard Nightingale also said some companies would charge millions of pounds to open in Weston.

Cllr Nightingale said: “The reality of the situation is that current policies at these big stores can demand figures of millions of pounds just to open their doors in a new area.

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“I know from my own experience of speaking to them that figures of nearly £2million have been mentioned in connection with Weston, which was presented as a bargain amount and a recognition of Weston’s up-and-coming status.

“The council is not in a position to offer retailers this kind of incentive and, quite frankly, it must have other priorities.

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“I think we have to accept that until large retailers change their thinking, attracting them will be difficult.”

Fellow central ward councillor Mike Bell described Dolphin Square’s future as a ‘chicken-and-egg’ situation.

Cllr Bell said: “It would be great to think Dolphin Square will deliver the flagship anchor department store like Debenhams, or a major retailer like Primark that many locals have long called for. Unfortunately, I think it is likely to be a case of ‘don’t get your hopes up’.

“The size of the retail units is not likely to be very big and given the challenges of letting the space earlier in the evolution of the Dolphin Square, the signs are not encouraging. It’s all a bit chicken-and-egg unfortunately.”

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