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Former Wolverhampton bar in £500k revamp as designer shop

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A landmark former bar in Wolverhampton city centre is to get a £500,000 refurbishment and a new lease of life as a designer clothes shop after lying empty for more than five years.

Gerald Bailey, the 44-year-old boss of the clothes chain Diffusion is taking over the former Midland Bank in Lichfield Street with his 45-year-old business partner Carl Peddie.

The building's most recent incarnation was as a bar called The Bank, but it closed in 2008 after its owners Laurel Pub Company went into administration and has been empty ever since, despite occupying one of the most prominent locations in the city centre.

The 4,500 sq ft building will be the new flagship for the firm that was launched by the pair from a small Broad Street shop in the city in 1989 and now has 14 other stores throughout the country employing 329 staff and a multi million pound annual turnover.

The Diffusion headquarters and shop currently housed in Victoria Street will relocate to the former bank, next to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, which has three times as much space.

Former Wednesfield High pupil Mr Bailey, who lives in Tettenhall, said: "This is the right move at the right time involving a building of remarkable character and history that will complement our premium clothes collection perfectly.

"The move is aimed at bolstering the regeneration of the city centre by encouraging visitors to shop there. This will be supported by the search for a regional streetwear designer whose clothing could be represented in the brand new store.

"Diffusion's in-house design team is looking to use the character and feel of this historical landmark, working with local Architects, Design to Build, and local construction company, Bespoke, who will be entrusted in delivering this transformation with a £500,000 budget."

The new-look store is set to open in May and will feature clothing and accessories for men, women and children using well established and successful brands such as Armani, Boss and Barbour. Mr Bailey is also expanding the business with Diffusion Online. Mr Peddie also used to run Picasso's nightclub in the city.

He explained: "We have been in the retail business for a long time and we have made a point of finding strong locations for our shops to complement our loyal customer base and strong brands. Wolverhampton is where it all started and the former Midland Bank is the perfect location to take the story to the next stage. We cannot wait to get started."

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