YORK is the setting for a game of retail musical chairs after high street giant Debenhams today revealed it is to open its second store in the city.
Computer firm PC World is also on the move to a huge new purpose-built home on the edge of the city as the face of shopping in York continues to change rapidly.
Debenhams confirmed it had agreed to open a new store at Monks Cross Shopping Park - but this will not sound the death knell for its existing premises in Davygate.
The company says it will continue to have two stores in York, after the future of its city centre branch was put in doubt last year when plans to slice it into smaller units were submitted. The retailer still hopes to eventually move into a new Coppergate II complex.
Meanwhile, the final phase of the expansion of Clifton Moor Retail Park will see about 50 Monks Cross-based PC World staff move to a larger 25,000sq ft store several miles along the Outer Ring Road to Clifton Moor, with building work starting in March and expected to be completed in October.
And the same centre is also about to welcome household goods chain Wilkinson, which will open on February 29, creating 80 jobs, after taking over the former Allders store.
It comes after The Press revealed Woolworths in Coney Street is to close next week after 80 years of trading, with Boots rumoured to be taking over the vacant store.
The spate of York retail activity follows a successful Christmas and New Year sales period for the city's shops, defying the trend of doom and gloom experienced elsewhere in the UK.
A Debenhams spokeswoman said: "We have been seeking improved representation in York for a number of years.
"The existing store is significantly smaller than our department stores in competing centres such as Leeds and Doncaster and, as a consequence, it is unable to display and retail the full range of Debenhams goods.
"Debenhams have now signed up to a store at Monks Cross Shopping Park and are committed to dual representation in York. We are still hoping that Coppergate II will happen and allow us to have full representation in the city."
However, she could not confirm how many jobs the Monks Cross store will create or when Debenhams will move there, although it is expected that they will step into the space vacated by PC World when it leaves.
PC World spokesman Rob Forbes said: "York is a very important city for us and we are pleased to be strengthening our presence there in the larger premises we have been looking for.
"The new store will give us more scope and more opportunities to do what we want to do and allow us to offer PC World customers the best shopping experience. We hope all the staff at our existing store will come with us to the new one, and there will be one or two job increases.
"It's an exciting move for us and we're hoping to continue our great relationship with York and its people."
PC World will pay an annual rent of £387,500 for the Clifton Moor site under an agreement with Henry Boot Developments Limited, which is currently tendering for contractors to build the new store.
Monks Cross manager Katherine Sharp said: "We have mixed feelings because PC World has been an excellent retailer here and we have built up a good relationship with everybody who works there.
"We will be sorry to see them go, but proud to welcome Debenhams to the site, especially with the news that they are going to keep their city centre store as well. It will be great to add the kudos of the Debenhams name to the Monks Cross shopping mix."
Last piece in the Clifton Moor jigsaw
THE last piece in the Clifton Moor jigsaw will see a new store take over the space left by doomed York superclub Ikon and Diva.
Henry Boot Developments Limited, which has been in charge of developing the retail park - including the new PC World store - since its birth in the late-1980s, is also transforming the neighbouring site into 18,000sq ft of retail space.
That was once a weekend destination for York clubbers until Ikon and Diva closed in 2005, with its owners blaming the rise of late-night city centre bars for its demise.
Several major retailers have already shown an interest in moving to the new site, and Henry Boot spokesman Keith Hutchinson said: "This particular scheme will be the final phase of Clifton Moor. As it stands, there are no plans for further expansion there. It's been incredibly successful and we're delighted to been associated with it, to have introduced it to York and to have seen it realise its ambition.
"We expect to start work on the conversion of the Ikon and Diva site in March, at the same time as the new PC World store. It should be ready for occupation in September, with a new glass-fronted entrance and an upgraded car park and, even at this early stage, we are talking to a number of interested retailers."
Rupert Thornton, a partner in Leeds chartered surveyors Hill Woolhouse - the co-agents in the two Clifton Moor deals with King Sturge - said: "We are just about to go to the market to find retailers for this new space.
"The planning consent we have does not allow for fashion or shoe stores, and is restricted to what we call bulky goods' like DIY, carpets or furniture. Such a store would be perfect for the site."