RUMOURS are rife among retailers that major international clothing companies, including Swedish ‘‘fast-fashion’’ giant H&M will open at Charlestown Square as part of a redevelopment set to begin in the old section of the shopping centre next week.
The other retailers reputedly set to open include British multinational fashion retailer Topshop and Spanish clothing and accessories store Zara.
The redevelopment is believed to span two levels in a section of the centre bordering Pearson Street and will lead to the imminent closure of at least 12 stores.
There were a cluster of at least nine stores in that section on Tuesday that had either already closed, are due to stop trading this week or are preparing to relocate to other parts of the shopping centre. But several retailers told the Newcastle Herald the number of stores that would eventually have to make way for the redevelopment could be as many 34. Retailers are expected to be briefed on the details of the redevelopment at a meeting on Friday.
While staff from some stores affected will be able to relocate, the development will lead to several people being out of work or made redundant.
The GPT Group declined to discuss specific retailers on Tuesday night and said the number of retail stores affected would be updated as the development progressed.
A spokesman for the company said the development would ‘‘deliver international retailers and at the same time GPT will be remixing the centre’’.
‘‘The GPT Group is investing in Charlestown Square to create an exciting change with a new development, which will further consolidate the centre’s position as the leading shopping destination in the region,’’ the spokesman said.
‘‘We will commence development works from next week and as a result of these initial works there will be approximately a dozen stores impacted.
‘‘We look forward to being able to provide further detail on the new retail offer and remix in due course. The development will bring exciting change and it is anticipated that the works will be completed over approximately 12 months.’’
The opening of a H&M store in Sydney last year led to mayhem in the North Ryde shopping precinct, with hundreds of people queueing up outside and then clambering for bargains. The retailer also has stores in Brisbane and Melbourne.
While the possibility of H&M opening in Newcastle will excite the region’s younger generation of shoppers, it will spell the end of several smaller clothing stores at the centre. Noni B, W-Lane, Be Me, Crossroads and Rockmans are believed to be among the stores set to close or relocate. Best and Less and Direct Shoe Warehouse had signs in their window on Tuesday to tell customers they would be relocating within the week. A number of stores on level two are also set to make way for the redevelopment.
The Herald spoke to several store owners who had to tell their regular customers they would no longer be around. ‘‘They call it progress, we just call it sad,’’ one staff member said. ‘‘All our ladies are really upset because there will be nothing much left for them in the centre when we go.
‘‘I’ve cried three times today talking to our regular customers, it’s been really sad.’’
By Kate Tarala
For those who haven’t set foot in the shopping manna from the gods, the news that H&M may open in the Hunter might not seem so important.
But for those lucky ones who have set foot in – and therefore surely shopped – at the famous stores, the news will be met with excitement. And rightly so, because most H&M stores are one of those rare stores where not only women but men (and kids if they stock clothes for them) can shop.
The Swedish department store has a well deserved reputation as a great place for both good value basics and more trend-driven, but still well-priced pieces. Coming from a dedicated online only shopper, H&M is one of only a handful of stores which will tempt me back to visiting a bricks and mortar store.
Let’s just hope rumours that rival brands such as Topshop and Zara will also head to the Hunter are also on the money.