Vacant Norwich shop to become a Wilkinson

Shoppers in Norwich will soon have a new name to visit on the high street after a tenant was announced for a premises occupied by a city department store which closed last summer after more than 100 years.

The doors of the former Co-op store in St Stephen's Street, which was bought by Liverpool-based Vergo retail in the summer of 2009, closed for the last time in June.

The store has been empty ever since, but the East of England Co-operative Society has secured a new tenant for the site and another of its vacant shops in Clacton.

David Cook-Abott, group general manager - property, for the East of England Co-operative Society, said national home and garden retailer, Wilkinson, has taken on the lease of the former department store in St Stephen's Street, Norwich, as well as the shop premises in Essex.

He said: 'We are very pleased to have such a well known name as Wilkinson as tenant. In a tough economic climate it's encouraging that a national retailer has decided to expand in the region and their presence will add to the variety of stores in both Norwich and Clacton.'

He added: 'The new stores will provide additional jobs and boost the local economy.'

Ian Cutts, head of property at Wilkinson said 'We're delighted to have secured retail space in both Norwich and Clacton, and are really excited about bringing a new, fresh, exciting retail proposition to each area.

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'As well as investing in our new stores, we look forward to getting involved with the local communities, and creating new jobs for the local residents.'

Wilkinson is a family owned business, trading for over 80 years and now has 349 stores nationwide.

The retailer prides itself on being the home of family value – great range breadth, all at competitive prices.

Its wide product range includes items for the home and garden, including furniture, DIY, health and beauty, and pets.

Stefan Gurney, manager of the Norwich City Centre Partnership (CCP) said Wilkinson would be a 'great addition' to the city's retail family.

He said: 'I think it's a brilliant addition to the city. I think Wilkinson are a national brand with a very good reputation and I think it's another sign that Norwich has got a national reputation for retail.'

The former Co-op store in St Stephen's Street was bought by Vergo Retail last in 2009 after being earmarked for closure along with nine other branches in the East of England safeguarding 350 jobs.

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News that the family-owned national low-price home and garden retailer Wilkinson is to move into the city follows on from moves by other bargain businesses to Norwich to help shoppers in these tough economic times.

Last month Coronation Street star Andy Whyment swapped the cobbled streets of Weatherfield for Norwich when he paid a visit to the city to open the new Poundland store at the Riverside Retail Park.

Mr Whyment cut the ribbon to declare the store officially open, and he also spent time meeting shoppers, signing autographs and having photographs taken with fans.

While earlier this year value store Family Bargains opened its doors in The Mall Norwich. The store occupies the corner unit formerly used by H&M which has been empty for more than a year. It is the largest space in The Mall, measuring 17,000 square feet.

Norwich became the ninth branch of Family Bargains to open since May last year. The store is owned by Nadir Lilani who founded the successful bargain chain, 99p stores.

Family Bargains stocks products including food, clothing, cleaning products, furniture and some of the goods which are currently stocked in 99p stores.