A HUGE £30 million pound John Lewis store is to open in Cheltenham - leading to calls for Worcester's shopping offer to be pushed like never before.

The high-end retailer has today announced how the town has been selected for a big new department store after scouring potential locations between Birmingham and Bristol.

Store bosses refused to comment today on how far its interest went in Worcester's former Co-Op site, the Trinity House complex off Queen Street which the county council has since sold to another developer.

But the Cheltenham selection for a big store, which will create 250 jobs, has led to city shops issuing a rallying call.

The news comes just two weeks after the opening of Birmingham's Grand Central, one of the biggest shopping malls in Europe.

John Lewis is the driving force behind the £150 million out-of-town Worcester Woods shopping plaza proposal in Newtown Road, where it has committed to an 'At Home' store.

Tim Evans, who runs Toys & Games of Worcester in Broad Street, said: "Worcester is so strong for its independent shops, but we know we need the big multiples to stand alongside it.

"So many people are influenced by what they see on TV and advertising, but it's the independents that make Worcester unique.

"John Lewis did look at the old Co-Op but walked away when someone said to them 'how about Worcester Woods', well we'd all like free parking and massive loading bays.

"They should be in the city centre, everyone in Worcester wants a John Lewis but it's got to be in the right place."

Mark Stewart, of Wise Owl Toys in Charles Street, said: "Having more independents and being a bit different is a good thing, not everyone wants to always go bigger.

"I'm not sure people in Worcester would dash to Cheltenham just because its got a John Lewis."

Adrian Field, from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID), which represents city centre businesses and shops, said: "We're confident Worcester’s strong mix of independents and multiples will continue to be a magnet for shoppers.

"Investment from chains and unique businesses continues here, which is reassuring with multiple fashion retailer Phase 8 opening in CrownGate recently, and Worcester Guitar Centre opening tomorrow in Reindeer Court for example."

The John Lewis store in Cheltenham will open in 2017 in the Beechwood Shopping Centre.

Tim Harrison, director of store development, said today: "We're delighted to be able to expand our reach to customers across the region for the first time."

John Lewis is still fully signed up to the Worcester Woods shopping proposal, which is subject of a planning application to the city council.

Chris Fleetwood, from Land Securities, the developer for Worcester Woods, said: "Ambitious developments like Grand Central in Birmingham and more recently, plans developed for Cheltenham show that Worcester is falling behind with its retail offer.

"Worcester is losing £151 million each year to competing retail centres.

"The Worcester Woods development, with its own John Lewis at Home store, would mean more money is retained in Worcester supporting local jobs and the local economy."