99p Store announces opening at Hitchin B&Q site
A DISCOUNT chain is set to open a bargain megastore in an out of town location, but the news has sparked fears that it could encourage anti-social behaviour.
Family Bargains, which is owned by 99p Stores Ltd, is expected to open at the former B&Q site in Nightingale Road, Hitchin, at the end of the month.
But there are concerns that the new store could increase anti-social behaviour, as it will sell alcohol at reduced prices.
It will also become the second store launching this year - following the opening of Tesco Express - in such close proximity to the railway station which sells alcohol late into the evening.
A licence was granted in February to sell alcohol from 8am to 11pm, Monday to Sunday - the same as the applied-for opening hours.
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Cllr Judi Billing said: “I was on record trying to get Tesco’s hours [to sell alcohol] reduced slightly. I just think it’s not good in a residential area which has a history of anti-social behaviour, to be encouraging young people to buy large quantities of cheap alcohol.
“I have a constant worry about anything that affects the vibrancy of the town centre.”
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The news that a discount store is coming to town may not come as a shock to many. The alcohol licensing application in February was the first 99p Stores Ltd’s interest was apparent, although at the time said it had no plans to open a new store in the town.
Another discount chain, JTF Wholesale Ltd, had also shown an interest in the site. An application was submitted last year, but the company did not take this any further.
There was also a failed application to build housing on the site, but these plans were dropped three years ago.
A spokesman for 99p Stores Ltd said: “We can confirm that we will be opening a store in Hitchin, which we anticipate will be at the end of the month.”
Hussein Lalani, owner of the chain, added: “We conduct constant feedback at all our stores and what has come over loud and clear from our family of 99p Stores shoppers is that they want even more value products.
“People are no longer prepared to pay over the odds for either essentials or lifestyle accessory ones.”
The store, which will sell food, DIY products, garden items, electricals and lifestyle products at discount prices, could create about 35 jobs.
Town centre manager Keith Hoskins said: “It was a retail unit before and I imagine that it will sell similar products that people can get in the town.”