A NEW WH Smith store is to open in a shopping centre, bucking the national economic gloom.

The store is to open in Billericay High Street in the spring, selling books, newspapers, stationery and magazines.

However, traders believe the opening could be a “double-edged sword” for the town.

Trevor Draper, owner of the Cook Shop and former chairman of the chamber of commerce, said the new store could have a negative impact on the town’s thriving independent shops.

He said: “I really welcome the news about the new WH Smith cautiously. I think it could be a double-edged sword for Billericay. While I am pleased the empty store is going to be filled, I think another national retailer could have a negative impact on the High Street.

“Billericay has a certain feel to it and the mix of independent retailers we have is what makes it special.

“I am afraid the new shop could take business away from established shops. Often, when national retailers come to high streets they don’t think about what other stores are presently there.”

WH Smith said it could not confirm how many new jobs would be created, but the new store would be opening next month.

Phil Turner, a ward councillor for Billericay, added: “I understand where Trevor is coming from, but I also welcome the news WH Smith has chosen to open in the town. The town centre has a good mix of independent and national retailers and I think it really works. I see this as a great addition to the High Street and I think it will do really well.”

The new store will be setting up shop in the former Yours premises, which closed in October last year.

A spokesman for WH Smith added: “WH Smith is delighted to be opening a new store in Billericay this spring.

“Customers will be able to access a wide range of WH Smith products, including books, stationery, newspapers and magazines, and we look forward to welcoming our customers into the new store.”