doc

A MAJOR department store earmarked to be an anchor store for the city centre redevelopment says its hasn’t changed its plans for new outlets after a profit warning this week.

Debenhams confirmed back in 2012 that it would open a 93,000 sq ft department store at Friars Walk.

But earlier this week the company announced that it expected its profits for the first six months of the financial year to fall to £85 million, 26 per cent less than the year before.

Those figures, however, do not appear to affect plans for Friars Walk.

A spokesman for the company said: “This week’s trading update does not change Debenhams strategy or its plans for future store openings.”

Back in 2012 the company said Newport had been a priority for some time, with the city being one of the largest in Britain without a Debenhams.

One of the reasons cited for Newport council’s decision to borrow £90 million to lend to Frairs Walk developers Queensberry Real Estate was the timeline given by the company for opening the outlet.

Debenhams has specified that it wants to be open at Friars Walk by Christmas 2015 or spring 2016 at the latest.

Under the council’s plans for the loan, which have been backed by a meeting of full council, the council will borrow up to £90 million from the Public Works Loan Board and lend it to Queensberry.

The developers will have to pay the money back to the council at market rate of interest within a year of the scheme’s completion.

This would allow for construction to start around March next year with Friars Walk open for business in November 2015, ahead of Debenhams’s timetable.

The Welsh Government has provided £1.5 million in funding for the city centre demolition work in and around John Frost Square to ready for Friars Walk.

That work will see the Capitol car park, Newport bus station and shops in John Frost Square demolished. It is hoped the area will be ready for construction work to start in March.

The fall in profits for Debenhams comes after big discounts failed to spur a surge in last-minute Christmas shopping.

The trading statement sent shares in the firm down 12 per cent.