A major sports retailer has reportedly pulled out of its hotly anticipated move to open a new branch at a prominent town-centre site in Uttoxeter, it has been claimed.
Last month, the Uttoxeter Advertiser revealed claims that national retailer Sports Direct had not signed a contract to ratify a proposed move to the Co-op building in the Maltings in the town.
It came after all indications in September that the sportswear giant was set to complete the move to the town after erecting "Sports Direct opening soon" signs on the premises. However, they were taken down just days later.
And now the letting agent appointed by Central England Co-operative to lease the building claims Sports Direct may well have "pulled out".
David Reece, director of Johnson and Co, said: "They haven’t signed the contract and aren’t interested in taking it further.
"My instructions have been that Sports Direct have pulled out and I’m to continue marketing the property.
"It’s bad news for Uttoxeter as it’s a big chunk of space left in the centre of the town.
"We’re talking about a large freehold property in a town centre, which is quite rare.
"The building is in great condition and would be suitable for a number of uses, so we’re confident someone will step in sooner or later.
"The big-box market, meaning stores bigger than about 7,500 sq ft, seems to be out of town or in Carter’s Square at the minute."
David Edmonston runs Edmonston’s Family Butchers, which is opposite the Maltings building.
He said: "It’s a massive shame for us and the rest of the traders in the Maltings.
"When I saw them putting the signs up, I thought 'this is absolutely brilliant'. To be honest, it seemed too good to be true.
"Having recently started selling fresh hot meat baps, the trade we’d have picked up off the back of Sports Direct would've been really significant.
"We’ve been on the verge of appointing another member of staff and we definitely would have if Sports Direct would come here.
"But we’ll just carry on. We’ve been able to deal with the closure of Co-op and Lowndes Fruits, both of which brought us a lot of trade – and I’m sure someone will move in there eventually."
A spokesman for Central England Co-operative said: "We can confirm that the Maltings site, in Uttoxeter, is available to let and the process is being overseen by our retained agents."
The Uttoxeter Advertiser contacted Sports Direct and asked its bosses to clarify the situation but they declined to comment.