Retailer's plans to reopen former Focus DIY store in Shepton Mallet
Tills could soon be ringing out once more at one of Shepton Mallet's largest empty stores.
Two years ago Focus DIY went into receivership, closing its Fosse Lane out-of-town premises.
Now 35 jobs are set to be created if B & M Homestores gets its application approved for a change of use for a third of the store.
When planning permission was originally granted by Mendip District Council for the retail outlet 10 years ago, conditions were put in place to restrict the sale of food and drink, cleaning products and toiletries.
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The decision to limit the use of the premises to the sale of DIY and builder's merchant goods, hardware, electrical goods, furniture, furnishings, floor coverings, plants and gardening equipment was made, it was said at the time, to safeguard the vitality and viability of Shepton Mallet town centre.
But now Liverpool-based discount trader B&M Homestore is arguing that without being able to sell other goods – described as impulse purchases – re-opening the Fosse Lane outlet would not be viable.
The firm is asking for permission to allow almost a third of the store to be for the sale of non–perishable food, drink, confectionery, cleaning products, toiletries, toys, non-fashion clothing such as socks and gloves, as well as homeware.
B&M is one of the UK's fastest growing retailers – going from 21 stores five years ago to more than 280 today.
The family-owned company specialises in selling discounted goods, factory end-of-line products. Such bargain basement-type stores have flourished while the higher-priced market stores have declined.
That is a crucial factor, according to B&M.
The firm, which now employs more than 10,000 people across the UK, says the impulse-product market is a key to its success – and the lack of such products is why companies such as Focus DIY have failed, it says.
Shepton Mallet Town Council is already giving its backing. The creation of 35 jobs, coming on the back of the announcement of the closure of Shepton Mallet Prison last week, is a welcome boost to the town's economy.
Consultation on the plan ends today (Thursday) and Mendip District Council has set itself a target of March 21 to decide whether to grant B&M the variation. The company's website is already advertising for a deputy manager for the Shepton Mallet store.