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No Gap For Gap In Booming Rugby

Rugby town centre is booming so much there is no virtually no room for new retailers to move in.

Traders are enjoying record business, the number of visitors is up every month, and there are only six empty shops in the whole town centre. And there are more shops on the way.

Robin Richter, town centre manager, said he would not even be able to find room for a much-requested department store - there just is not the room.

But while other towns in Warwickshire fear the arrival of new shopping centres at Leamington, Banbury, Solihull and the Arena 2001 development in north Coventry, he feels Rugby should weather the storm and remain unaffected.

Mr Richter said:

“I think the people of Rugby do not want to see their town as a Coventry or Leicester, we do not want to be like them.

“We are a town with a cafe society with up-market and independent niche stores. The town is doing very well, and there is virtually no unemployment.

“We do have High Street names like Boots and Next and Marks and Spencer, but we have more of the smaller independent shops.

“Traders are seeing profits up month-by-month and yearly rises of six per cent - and footfall [the amount of people in town] is up three per cent.

“We have to say at this time that demand is outstripping supply – the number of empty shops stands at 1.88 per cent – only six shop vacancies.”

And as Rugby grows – with a development of thousands of up-market homes going up at Cawston Grange – the demand for shops will increase.

Mr Richter said:

“The population now stands at 92,500 and within three years it should go over 100,000. 

“That is a magic figure as far as retailers are concerned and that is when they start to take notice and we will point them towards the Chapel Street development.”

The rundown area between the library and the Co-op has been an eyesore since the 1960s as different redevelopment plans have come and gone.

Despite political power in the town hall swinging from Labour to Tory and back again, all parties have promised they could sort it out, but little has been achieved. The latest timetable should see new plans decided before the end of the year.

Now the council is working with the Co-op, which it has shunned in the past, but many Rugby residents fear work will never begin, and rumours come and go about which anchor store will be attracted to the scheme.

But there are more shops and entertainment plans now well under way - less than a mile north of the town centre.

A new development, between Tesco and the Avon Mill roundabout, is being built and will open in phases over the coming months. 

It will house a new Boots store and a McDonalds. It will also have a nine-screen cinema, restoring a dedicated picture house to the town after 25 years.

The council wants the area to have only ‘out-of-town’ stores that should not hit town centre trading.

Further north, by the M6, work has started on a new national HQ for the Gap clothing chain, and Mr Richter believes they will also open a store in the town, even though there is no room at present. The firm will probably have to wait until the Chapel Street development is underway.

The borough council this week announced it is to allow commercial companies to rent parts of the town centre, and will use the money that raises to pay for street entertainment and theatre for the benefit of residents and traders.
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CWN / Business / A-Z / Rugby Town Centre Partnership / 21 Jul 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM