Corby’s redundant TJ Hughes building has been snapped-up by high street big shot Mike Ashley.
In what will be seen as a coup for the town, the empty 46,000sq ft, two-storey building in the heart of Corby will become home to Ashley’s two popular high street brands. Contracts are believed to have been exchanged on the deal on Wednesday evening.
Sports Direct is a low-cost outlet that sells branded sports clothes, footwear and equipment at rock-bottom prices.
USC Fashion sells mid-market clothing brands for men, women and kids including Jack and Jones, G Star and Calvin Klein.
A local source told the Northants Telegraph that town centre bosses were said to be ‘ecstatic’.
TJ Hughes in Queen’s Square has been empty since the popular store closed in 2011 with the loss of 27 jobs
It does mean that the large Sports Direct at Phoenix Parkway on the edge of the town is likely to close next year.
Large town centre units are notoriously tricky to fill and this will be seen as a significant sign that Corby town centre continues to hold its own in a very difficult market.
Sports Direct is believed have bought the freehold to the building from Sovereign Centros which owns the majority of the town centre aside from a handful of Corby Council-owned buildings.
The unusual private ownership has meant that the centre has been largely immune to the public funding cuts that have affected town centres elsewhere in Northamptonshire.
The town centre was sold by former owner Helical Bar to Europa Capital Partners and Sovereign Land for £71m in 2015. Town centre manager Dan Pickard has remained in charge of the centre through several ownership changes and is seen as a key figure in the comparatively healthy position of Corby’s shopping offer.
It is hoped that the new Sports Direct will be open in less than a year.
The large building was a Littlewoods shop from 1975 - employing more than 300 staff during its peak in the 1980s.
Littlewoods closed in 2007 and the store was taken over by TJ Hughes which entered administration in 2011. Although attempts were made to keep the profitable Corby site open, it eventually closed and has largely been empty, apart from some storage use, since then.
A Corby town centre spokesman said that Sovereign Centros would not be commenting immediately.
Sports Direct have been contacted for comment.