ONE of the biggest casualties of the recession - the former Big W Woolworths outlet on Portrack Lane - is to reopen as a retail megastore.
National household value chain The Range said it would create 150 jobs on Portrack Lane when it takes over the 60,000 ft site in April.
It still leaves two of the seven former Woollies in Tees Valley empty, 17 months after creditors forced the family favourite into administration in December 2008.
Stockton High Street, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Billingham have all found new operators, but key town centre sites in Darlington and Hartlepool remain vacant.
Altogether, 120 people lost their jobs at the Stockton Big W along with nearly 27,000 others at 807 branches nationwide, including 44 in Darlington, 40 in Stockton High Street, 36 in Hartlepool, 32 in Redcar, 17 in Billingham and 61 in Middlesb rough.
All occupied prime retail sites.
The Range, which stocks similar items to Woolworths whose model was described as broken in the months after the firm’s collapse, began life as a market stall in Plymouth in 1980.
Founder and owner Chris Dawson said: “Stockton is an area which is fast developing and I am excited about opening the store there.
“My research has shown that the people of Stockton love a good bargain.”
The Range will create 150 jobs, from departmental managers and store managers to back office and warehouse staff.
The opening follows rising confidence in the retail property market.
Agents Carver Commercial, which recently let a 2,700sq ft unit to Sainsbury in Darlington said it had seen a marked increase in inquiry levels.
Director Julie Wallin said: “There is still a shortage of freehold properties and plenty of good cash buyers around, particularly in the owner-occupier sector.
“Investors are beginning to return to the market, enticed by the continuing low interest rates. We are also seeing general signs of confidence returning, with an increase in new start-up business inquiries.”