Fat Face store coming to St Neots has been an ‘open secret’

Alan Huckle outside the Barretts store late last year.

Alan Huckle outside the Barretts store late last year. - Credit: Archant

Clothing and accessories retailer Fat Face is to open a store in St Neots as a part of closure plan for Barretts department store.

Following an announcement last year that Barretts was reviewing its future in the town, the Huckle family, who own and run the shop, along with commercial property firm Barford+co, have had several enquiries from companies wanting to move into the market town.

The building, on High Street, has been divided into two retail units and Fat Face will occupy 45 Market Square, while Barretts continues to trade in a reduced space, from number 47 on the corner of Market Square and New Street.

The company is, however, conducting a closing down sale and intends to shut the doors on the store, that first opened in 1888, this week.

Alan Huckle, director of Barretts, said: “It was a very difficult decision to have to close down the premises in which we have operated for so many years and we knew it would come as a disappointment to our loyal customers and the town. However, it is pleasing that a good quality fashion retailer in Fat Face has committed to the first available shop unit and we are sure that this will be a boost for the High Street.”

Offers from other retailers are currently being looked at by the family, and Fat Face will move into the unit in March.

A spokesman for Fat Face said: “We are delighted to have been able to secure a store in the prime part of St Neots town centre and intend to be open for business next month.”

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At a planning meeting of St Neots Town Council earlier this month, councillors described the Fat Face plan as “a welcome addition to the retail provision of the town”.

Phil Halmshaw, director of agency and development at Barford + Co, added: “It has been almost an open secret that Fat Face were lined up for the shop, but with the lease now completed, it is pleasing to be able to confirm that the company will soon be operating from the property. The interest we were able to generate in the retail premises is testament to the strength of the demand for prime shops in St Neots, and the attractiveness of the town in terms of its economy and potential for growth”.

The store was opened in 1888 by Arthur Barrett as a men’s clothing shop and in 1889, Charles Huckle, aged 12, was employed as an assistant. When Mr Barrett died, aged 29, Charles Huckle continued working for his widow, Kitty, and took over the business in 1908 when she died.

The family-run business has attempted to diversify over the years and opened a coffee shop in 1991, toy department in 1993 and later a bookshop.