All change in St Neots with Waterstones moving out and Aldi, B&M and Pets at Home coming in

St Neots.

St Neots. - Credit: Archant

The face of St Neots is set to change as a long-standing shop closes its doors and a major chain earmarks the town for one of its supermarkets.

Waterstones, based in Barretts of St Neots in the Market Square, will shut on Saturday, August 16, after the book company was unable to agree terms for a new lease with the independent department store.

Meanwhile, retail giant Aldi has confirmed interest in developing an 18,000sqft store in Great North Road, to open next year. It is expected to create about 40 jobs, with staff recruited from the area.

A public consultation about the plans will be held at St Mary’s Church, Eaton Socon, from 3pm-7pm today (Wednesday). The Hunts Post has seen documents to suggest that Pets At Home and B&M Bargains are also looking to open stores in the town.

A spokesman for Waterstones said: “Unfortunately the rent was simply one we could not afford and was in fact, as measured by rent as a percentage of sales, the second most expensive shop in our whole estate.

“We will look to open in another location as soon as possible as our customer base has been exceptionally loyal and there is a very healthy market for books in St Neots.”

She explained that the company was generally able to agree new terms with its landlords at the end of a lease. However, she added that the only shop more expensive than the St Neots branch in its portfolio was a shop at the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield.

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Alan Huckle, the director of Barretts of St Neots Ltd, said that once the store’s 10-year agreement with Waterstones comes to an end, they plan to use the space themselves to extend their cookware and homeware offering.

He told The Hunts Post: “We are going to be opening up the whole ground floor and running a bigger store ourselves which we are very pleased about doing because this is our 126th year. We have seen a lot of changes over that time, as you can imagine, and this is just another one of those.

“It is with a tinge of sadness because we built up a big book business in the town – it was Barretts book department originally that we grew into St Neots book shop, which was then taken over by Ottakar’s, who were later taken over themselves.

“We are very excited by the opportunity that it presents us to build Barretts back up again. We are looking forward to a viable, vital and successful future.”

The Mayor of St Neots, Councillor Andrew Hansard, said: “It is a shame because Waterstones is quite a good book shop. There isn’t another book shop really in the town, so that will be a disappointment.

“Hopefully they can find some new premises, although there aren’t that many.”

Speaking about the proposed new shops looking to open in St Neots, Cllr Hansard added: “That would be terrific – retail is about competition and the more competition we have, the better the shops we have. I don’t want this town to become any more of a commuter town, so the more businesses and the more employment the better.”

A revamped Clinton Cards store in the town’s High Street will open on Saturday (July 26).