Topping out ceremony at Cheltenham's Regent Arcade H&M and River Island development
TWO big additions to Cheltenham's High Street are a step closer to opening after structural work wrapped up at a shopping centre revamp.
H&M and a new River Island will open in the town centre this summer following a £20million renovation by Willmott Dixon at the Regent Arcade.
A topping out ceremony yesterday celebrated the completion of structural work, which has included a new front façade which opens out onto the High Street.
River Island's new store is three times bigger than its current unit in Regent Arcade, and is expected to open in July, while H&M is scheduled for an August launch.
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John Forward, Regent Arcade centre manager, said: "Without a doubt, the new shops are going to increase the footfall to the town centre. Currently people have to go to Gloucester if they want to shop at H&M, so we are losing that customer for that day or part of the day.
"We may now get a slightly younger element of people coming into the centre. By having these two big names within the centre, we are looking to attract some other major retailers to Cheltenham."
River Island will leave its current location for the new store, and Mr Forward said there had already been interest in the soon to be available unit.
"The current River Island unit will be let to a new company. There is nothing firm yet, but we have had a few inquiries," he added. Martin Quantock, town centre manager, said there had long been demand for an H&M in Cheltenham.
"Whenever I used to go to the Municipal Offices, the ladies there would collar me to say one of the shops they really wanted to see in Cheltenham is an H&M," he said.
"Having H&M and a big new River Island is good for other shops in Cheltenham because they will attract more customers to the town centre."
H&M will take up three floors next to the arcade entrance, which has a new-look Bath stone-clad façade. River Island is moving next to Lloyds bank over two levels, with the third floor being used for administration.
Claire Phillips, product manager for River Island, said the retail giant was looking forward to having "a bigger and better" shop.
She said: "Cheltenham is a popular shopping destination and it will really benefit us to have a store on the High Street rather than inside the arcade."
Construction work began in March last year and has included new floors, ceilings and escalators. Willmott Dixon was handpicked for the project by Canada Life, the owner of Regent Arcade.