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'This is a positive for the town' – new Marks & Spencer in New Milton's Station Road will 'revitalise' street

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NEWS of M&S’s arrival in New Milton next year has been widely welcomed by shoppers, independent retailers and market stall holders who believe it will revitalise the high street and boost trade.

It has been one of the town's worst-kept secrets, with rumours circulating for months the chain was set to move into the former Co-op building on Station Road.

But a planning application to the New Forest District Council for signage on the building finally revealed Marks & Spencer was bringing a foodhall to New Milton, set to open spring next year.

The store is due to open in spring
The store is due to open in spring

Phil Williams, owner of Toys & More, said the only downside was that it had not happened sooner.

“Marks & Spencer still holds a lot of, for want of a better word, kudos,” he told the A&T.

“I think it’s one of those places where you’ll get a mix of clientèle. You may get people who otherwise wouldn’t have come to the town and would have gone straight to Christchurch.”

Kathy Sirl, owner of The Naked Pantry and neighbouring Naked Quench café, believed the development could benefit smaller traders.

“We pride ourselves as an independent town which encourages independent businesses, but having a couple of bigger names might make us look less like the poorer relation to Lymington and Christchurch,” she said.

Daniel Barrett from the Barrett & Sons fruit and vegetable stall, which has been a fixture of the Wednesday market for 15 years, was pleased another major supermarket will open in the high street.

“We used to do well when the Co-op was there, so there’s no reason why Marks & Spencer should be any different for us,” he said.

“Our trade actually dropped after Co-op shut.”

Shoppers and retailers have welcomed the announcement
Shoppers and retailers have welcomed the announcement

Local shopper Paul Lane commented: “There will obviously be winners and losers – some shops will suffer because of this, but others will thrive.

“Nobody wants an empty shop, so I think this is a positive for the town.”

In August Bradbeers director Justyn Davies revealed to the A&T it had agreed terms with “a leading national retailer” to occupy the premises. But he could not then reveal its identity.

Following the confirmation, Mr Davies said: “As a longstanding independent store in the town centre, we are delighted that this significant unit on New Milton’s main shopping street will continue to be a retail outlet used by a major national food retailer.

“As landlord, Smith Bradbeer was keen to see the premises used to further enhance the shopping variety in the town centre rather than shoppers being drawn to out-of-town sites.”

An M&S spokesperson told the A&T it was hoped the “new-look M&S Foodhall” would open its doors to customers in the spring.

“The new store will mark a significant investment in the local area and will offer customers the very best of M&S Food, with a bigger range of M&S quality products than ever before,” they said.

“We will keep the local community updated as our plans progress and look forward to welcoming everyone to the new store soon.”

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