RIVER Island is the latest big name retailer to move to Bournemouth’s Commercial Road amid the shift in footfall to that side of the town centre.

The clothing store is moving from its current store in Old Christchurch Road to the new purpose built premises and will be close to its “main competitors”.

Tracey Vivian, River Island’s area manager, said staff numbers would increase from 20 to between 35 and 40 when the new store opens, which is expected to happen in May. “All our main competitors have moved to Commercial Road,” she said.

“Old Christchurch Road has had many businesses close so there is little incentive apart from Beales or House of Fraser for clothing shoppers to go up that side of town.

“We have a two-floor site rather than a three-floor site, which generally trades better due to footwear and accessories all being on same floor as ladies’ wear.”

The new 7,000 sq ft store sees River Island alongside the shops H&M, Zara, Primark and the Republic store, now branded as USC.

Tracey added: “It is a much larger unit.

“We will also be able to offer a kidswear range as we already do in the Castlepoint and Southampton branches.”

Roger Parker, Bournemouth council’s town centre manager, said footfall on Commercial Road outstripped Old Christchurch Road before Primark moved in 2010 but that store further cemented that shift.

“The change had already started to take place,” he added.

“Retailers want 5,000 sq ft and we’ve not got a lot of that in Bournemouth.

“That’s why River Island is developing that site.”