New life for Woolies

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FLEETWOOD'S old Woolworths store is to be brought back to life.

But Bright House, the rent-to-own store which charges almost 30 per cent APR, has had to defend itself even before it opens its doors on July 17.

Its arrival, which will create seven jobs, was welcomed in the town.

But a note of caution was sounded by County Coun Clive Grunshaw.

Coun Grunshaw said: "I welcome any employment we can attract to Fleetwood, but I do have concerns about Bright House.

"They tend to make their profit out of people who can't afford any other option.

"They charge high interest rates so it isn't good for people paying for things at such charges. I welcome the employment. But on the other hand I don't like to see companies such as Bright House flourishing on the back of people's lack of resources."

Bright House advertises itself on its own website as "providing you with the benefits of credit without the traditional strings attached".

Customers pay for goods such as TVs, furniture and kitchen appliances by cash, weekly payments or by monthly direct debit.

A Bright House spokesman said: "Flexible rent-to-own agreements allow the customer to achieve ownership of products which, due to insufficient cash resources or a lack of access to mainstream credit, they might otherwise be unable to obtain.

"We offer customers a fair deal and always try to treat them fairly. That's why we have very high customer satisfaction rates.

"We are a responsible lender and work with customers to make sure they only take what they can afford. Our 29.9 per cent APR is significantly lower than alternative credit providers, who have different business models. This rate is comparable with those offered by mainstream UK retailers.

"We would, of course, be more than happy to meet with Coun Grunshaw to discuss any issues or concerns."

Coun Mike Sanderson, chairman of Fleetwood Chamber of Trade, said: "It's good to see that a national company is investing in Fleetwood's high street after all the closures that have come about lately. I think that Bright House will be a good addition to the town.

I'm sure that there will be many who will welcome this type of credit in these times of hardship."

Coun Lorraine Beavers, who works in a town centre shop, said: "It's fantastic news because it's another shop that's full."

Store manager Gordon Knight said: "We are very excited about joining the community in Fleetwood and welcome everyone to our store opening event."

Woolworths closed in January last year and the store stood empty for months before Steals moved in, only to last five months.