A NEW shopping zone will open up in the empty former Argos store in St Helens aimed at attracting fledgling retailers who want to try their first bricks and mortar selling space.

National commercial property and investment company LCP is launching the concept, titled Microshops in eight areas around the country and the Hardshaw Centre in St Helens has been chosen as one of the sites for development.

A section of the store – which years ago also housed Toy & Hobby – is currently being converted into 14 "pods", which will give a blank canvas for start ups.

A babywear business and clothing retailer are among those to sign up for the space in St Helens Microshops already.

The property owners are keen to attract start-up retailers and local artists, craftspeople and designers.

They could be from a range of fields – such as bakers, jewellers, clothing sellers, candlemakers, art galleries, florists, music producers and vinyl record sellers.

Lisa McAlinden, property manager at LCP, said what makes the Microshops concept different from other similar ventures is the versatility of the retail pods and the all-inclusive, flexible contracts that are available on a rolling quarterly basis.

How the venture looks in other areas

How the venture looks in other areas

“We’re excited by the possibilities of Microshops for would-be entrepreneurs who have started their business online but want to move into bricks and mortar without committing thousands of pounds to it,” she said.

“As experts in the local and convenience-led retail sector, we’ve been looking at how we can play our part in revitalising the towns in which we operate. Providing independent traders, designers, artists and start-ups an affordable opportunity so they can go to that next step in their retail business was something we are keen to do.

“However, we are committed to ensuring this is a high-quality brand that will become nationally recognised as synonymous with entrepreneurs and start-ups who want to create, build and sell without the worry of extra costs.

“We’ve been working on the concept for over a year and are pleased to have rolled it out to our first eight centres and are looking forward to introducing more Microshops over the next few months.”

Microshops is being launched initially in eight towns – Margate, St Helens, Aldershot, Thornaby-on-Tees, Govan Cross, Airdrie, Penicuik and Ipswich – where the company owns and manages retail centres.

The Microshops can be found at: Pavilion Shopping Centre, Thornaby-on-Tees; The Centre, Margate; The Wellington Centre, Aldershot; The East Gate Centre, Ipswich; and The Hardshaw Centre, St Helens; Govan Cross Shopping Centre, Govan Cross; Penicuik Shopping Centre, Penicuik; and Airdrie Retail Park, Airdrie.

Anyone signing up for a retail pod will pay an affordable weekly rent that is inclusive of utilities. For or more information, visit: www.microshops.co.uk