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Long wait over as Starbucks eyes up town
STARBUCKS looks set to finally open in Witney after years of uncertainty over whether the coffee chain will come to the town.
The multinational has applied to move into the unit currently occupied by Evans in the Woolgate Centre in April.
It comes five years after the move was first mooted for the yet-to-open Marriots Walk, Welch Way.
Hoarding bearing the firm’s brand went up but the unit never opened at the £50m development. The unit is still empty.
A planning application has gone to West Oxfordshire District Council for the Starbucks, opposite an existing Costa coffee shop.
Agents Deloitte said Evans chose not to renew its long-term lease in June 2012 and now only needs to give three months’ notice.
It said the unit is “not an appealing size and shape for fashion or comparison goods retailers because of its limited overall tradable space”.
It said: “Shopping centres are increasingly required to become entertainment centres and destinations for more than just shopping”.
The additions of firms like Starbucks is “vital to increase vibrancy and visitor numbers to town centres.”
But Witney Chamber of Commerce Lesley Semaine chairwoman said: “We don’t need another coffee shop.
“There’s already a Costa opposite the proposed shop. It’s better than having an empty shop but it’s a shame it couldn’t be something else.
“I would have liked to see an independent shop. At the moment we have more independent shops than in many other towns and it would be a great shame to lose that.”
Evans sales advisor Sharin McGregor said the branch had been in the unit for about 16 years.
She said: “Witney is losing its feel of a market town. I am not sure there is a great demand for another coffee shop in the area.”
She added: “We are the only special shop for ladies of a large size in the area.
“We have a loyal band of customers who come from Banbury, Oxford and even further afield.”
Yet Richard Taee, manager of independent Huffkins coffee shop in High Street, said: “We believe that the more choice of good retailers and restaurants there are in Witney, the more people will flock to the town to shop and dine. We welcome choice and variety wherever we trade.
“It's good for business and it's good for customers.”
A Starbucks spokesman said: “We are planning to open a new store in Witney in April next year with one of our franchise partners 23.5 Degrees. Every Starbucks store creates around 15 new jobs for the local area.
“As well as bringing employment opportunities to the Witney community, we are also looking forward to bringing Starbucks’ to new customers.”
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