Next will open one of its biggest UK stores at Merry Hill's former Sainsbury's site

The former Sainsbury's superstore at Merry Hill is to become one of the biggest Next stores in the UK, centre bosses have revealed today.

The multi-million development will include Next's homeware range, an outlet for the Lipsy fashion brand and a coffee shop when it opens next spring. The deal, which follows months of talks between intu and Next, is part of the shopping centre owner's ambitious £100 million plans to transform Merry Hill.

Intu says it has worked closely with Next on plans to convert the former Sainsbury’s at the centre into a 75,680 sq ft store. It follows the decision of the supermarket chain to pull out last Christmas. Nick Round, regional director at intu, said:

“We will be working closely with Next to build a fantastic space for what will be one of their biggest UK stores.

“Next’s significant investment at intu Merry Hill reflects our own long term commitment to the centre and the confidence that exists in it as a destination where brands can really flourish. Our plans are to attract even more great brands and create compelling experiences for customers across the West Midlands.”

Mr Round said the new Next will extend the original Sainsbury's footprint of 60,000 sq ft, taking in the site of one of the shopping centre's former Burger King outlets and extending the 20ft ceilings by another 10ft, installing a 4,500 sq ft mezzanine.

"It will have a new design, new layout and new format, creating a new flagship store for Next that will help bring more shoppers to Merry Hill," he said. "There will be a lot of glazing around the store; it's going to be a sensational building."

The new branch of next will open next spring and will be one of the largest in the UK.

Next is due to start fitting out the new store before Christmas with the aim of opening some time around Easter next year.

There is no word yet on new jobs or Next's plans for its existing store sites at Merry Hill, which comprise a two storey branch within the mall's as well as a separate homeware store on the centre's retails park. A spokesperson for Next said:

“We’re excited to have secured this fantastic space within the prime retail destination of intu Merry Hill as the site of our next West Midlands store.”

It is the latest in a string of brands to have invested in new space at intu Merry Hill since intu took full ownership of the centre last year in a £410 million deal.

JD Sports, Topshop and River Island have all increased the size of their stores while TAG Heuer, Five Guys and a dedicated Virgin Holidays store are among brands to have opened in recent months.

Intu, which owns 19 UK and Spanish shopping centres including Lakeside and the Trafford Centre, aims to cut the number of smaller shops and use the space to increase the size of its bigger stores, keeping it in tune with big retail chains that are looking for larger stores of between 20,000 sq ft and 60,000 sq ft.

Merry Hill is also due to serve up a range of new dining and leisure outlets and will also be fully refurbished under intu’s plans to spend £100 million to further enhance its mix of retail and leisure.

At 1.4m sq ft and just 10 miles from Birmingham, intu Merry Hill is already attracting 22 million visitors a year, making it the UK's 15th largest shopping centre based on footfall and 7th largest by physical size.

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