A SHOP dynasty is set to come to an end with the closure of one of Northumberland’s most famous stores.
The owners of the building that is home to the Robbs department store in Hexham have announced plans for a £40m development of the site that is likely to see the building demolished.
Buccleuch Property, which bought the store 18 months ago, said it intends to create a “remarkable” new building that will provide visitors to the town with a “memorable” shopping experience.
Nick Waugh, commercial property director for the firm, said: “We would like to create a very modern, contemporary and stylish building that would fit well with and make the most of the existing architecture of Hexham.
“Internally, the retail space would be open plan and more conducive for shoppers and concessionary retailers within the stores creating a truly remarkable building and in turn, provide locals with a memorable shopping experience.”
It is not yet clear what will happen to the 129 Robbs’ staff who last summer survived the threat of the store being closed completely, before the store’s lease was bought in a dramatic last minute deal by Vergo Retail.
The lease has two more years to run and it is likely that the store will continue to trade during that period.
Mr Waugh said: “Robbs is an important retail landmark in the heart of Hexham, spanning some 85 years, and along with other major retailers helps attract thousands of shoppers into the town centre every week.
“The agreement has been created to build stability for the store’s owners and its staff and to ably assist its position as the number one retail destination within Hexham, but also provide us with flexibility when it comes to the future development of the site.
“The development will be carried out within the framework of a full and robust consultation with Tynedale Council, Hexham Civic Society, local councils and the general public which will help us formulate an overarching strategy for the best way to make the store work for the retailer, shoppers and residents.
“Past experiences have shown us that redevelopments of this size can cost up to £40m or more.”
Richard Robson, chief executive at Tynedale Council, said the council would be working closely with Buccleuch on the store’s redevelopment.
He said: “We are extremely pleased that Robbs’ future has been secured following the difficulties that have been experienced over the past year or so.
“The store has bounced back to provide a much needed retail facility in the town that is valued by local people.
“We are committed to working closely with Buccleuch Property on a longer term redevelopment of the store which offers the opportunity for us to hugely enhance the retail and economic strength of Hexham.”
For previous stories about Robbs, click the links below
Mixed reaction to demolition news
SHOPPERS described mixed emotions at the news that Robbs department store in Hexham is to be demolished.
Most expressed sadness at the loss of the town’s flagship store, but nearly all also agreed it was important the town moved with the times and provided the best possible shopping facilities.
Care worker Corrina Davies, 36, of Peth Head, Hexham, said that change was a good thing.
"Robbs is good, but it is very select in there and there does need to be more choice. It is a shame because it has been in the community for a while, but I do think that Hexham needs to be kept up to date."
Kirsty Pearson, 25, of Wydon Park, added: "I think it is fantastic because there are no decent shops in Hexham and this is just what we need. It is time to move on."
Retired policeman Phil Allman of Priestlands Lane, worked in Robbs as a teenager.
He said: "It is a bit sad because it is a big name in Hexham. I still try to do my shopping in there when I can. I would like to think that whatever replaces it would have the same amount of jobs and would also have some independent traders, with some local businesses."
Fiona Ewing, 40, of Greenhead, also said that it was a loss for the town, adding: "I was sad when I first heard it was going last summer, and it was good when it was saved.
"It is a nice place to go and shop, it is a bit like stepping back in time.
"I hope they replace it with something that is specific to Hexham – it is horrible when you go to places and all the shops are the same."
Support worker Julie Edwards, 26, of Hallstile Bank, said: "I suppose that you could do more with it – you could change the logo, but then that is what people recognise."
History of Robbs in Hexham
1818 Scottish weaver William Robb opens the first store in Hexham.
1890 William Robb’s grandson, James, builds a new store on the west side of Fore Street.
1928 The store extends to premises on the East side of Fore Street.
1986 Robbs merges with William Joplings Ltd of Sunderland; work begins on the £1.25m Robbs at Tynedale Park
1987 The merged businesses are sold to the Merchant Retail Group.
1989 Robbs at Tynedale Park opens.
2004 Merchant Retail sells Tynedale Park to Tesco for £17m. The Robbs Fore Street Store is put up for sale.
2005 Tynedale Park closes. The Fore Street store is bought by Owen Owen for £8m.
2006 Buccleuch Group buys Fore Street building for £7.7m under a lease back scheme.
2007 Owen Owen goes into administration, before being bought out by Vergo Retail.
2008 £40m redevelopment plans unveiled.