One of the region’s last empty former Woolworths stores is to get a new lease of life after being taken over by an English discount chain.
Up to 150 jobs will be created at the former Big W site at the Jewel when it is taken over by The Range which sells home, leisure and gardenware and bills itself as “Britain’s Great Value Superstore”. The first Scottish branch of The Range, is set to open in Glasgow next week, with the second following at the former Edinburgh Woolworths store in October. The company already has 80 branches in England and Wales.
The former Big W store has lain vacant for more than four-and-a-half years, after becoming the last Woolworths store in the Capital to close when the firm went into administration. Only two out of 103 store workers were understood to have found new employment by the time their contracts officially ended.
The Range owner Chris Dawson said: “We are always pleased to be able to create a number of local jobs. The new Edinburgh store already promises to attract many potential employees and we are excited to invite around 150 to join the team at the new store.
“I would like to thank the council for welcoming us to Edinburgh and being so supportive. With The Range being new to Scotland we would like to welcome the locals to the store opening, so they can see first-hand exactly what we are all about.” The Big W closing-down sale resulted in police being called out as shoppers from across Edinburgh flocked to the store to take advantage of clearance bargains in the run up to Christmas, giving the 99-year- old store record one-day sales.
At the time, retail experts predicted that the store may have to be subdivided into smaller units as the recession made it all the more difficult to attract businesses to take on the full £1.5 million annual rent.
In 2010, hopes were raised that the site could be taken over by a supermarket or garden centre when the building’s owner, Aegon Asset Management, began holding consultations with residents, but a bid to build a supermarket was rejected by planning officials the following year.
The meetings came after the site became a target for vandalism.
Local SNP Cllr Mike Bridgman said he welcomed the new development, adding: “It’s great for the well-being of the local community to see jobs being created.
“I am also pleased to see this building being put to use after lying derelict for so long.”
The new store is expected to open to the public on Friday, October 4.
The highs and lows of woolies
THE first Woolworths UK store opened in Liverpool in 1909, 30 years after launching in the United States, and during the 1920s a new store was estimated open every 18 days.
Big W was launched in the 1990s to compete with larger retailers.
The company entered administration in 2008 after years of falling sales, related to the growth of online shopping, saw the owners unable to get sufficient bank backing to weather a cash crisis. Failure to find a buyer resulted in the closure of all 813 UK stores and the loss of 31,000 jobs.