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Forgotten high streets have a future, says Pep&Co boss

Customers want more choice of stores on “overlooked” high streets in towns such as Salford, Bolton, Yardley, Paisley and Cwmbran, as well as improved transport links and parking, a report from value chain Pep&Co and property firm Savills has found.

As Pep&Co prepares to push the button on another wave of store openings later this year, managing director Adrian Mountford said: “Our customers have shown us there is a real appetite for fashion stores in local towns that may have been shunned by mainstream retailers in favour of more glamorous city centres.”

The value chain published the Talking Shops report as it made its TV debut this week. Six-part documentary series Bargain Shop Wars, the first episode of which aired on ITV on Thursday, follows its £20m rollout in secondary high street locations.

“When we were doing our due diligence to open our first 50 stores last year, we read everything available about ‘the death of the high street’ but what seemed to be missing was asking local people what they wanted from their town centres,” explained Mountford.

“The major things we found from speaking to shoppers was that they wanted to mix going to big out-of-town shopping centres or large city centres alongside visiting their local high streets – but they want more entertainment and leisure facilities, as well as choice of shops there too. They also highlighted what a big issue parking and local transport links are.

“I’m a retailer, not a policy maker, but we wanted to raise awareness of the views of local people and what they want from secondary towns.”

The second venture from Pep&Co founder and former Asda chief executive Andy Bond is a value variety chain called GHM! (Guess How Much), which will open between eight and 10 stores in summer in out-of-town locations. The second store has been confirmed on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, joining Hinckley in Leicestershire in the first wave of openings.

The chain, which is also backed by South African investor Christo Wiese, will stock Pep&Co clothing alongside household items and grocery brands.


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