THE Somerfield Co-op supermarket is to shut its doors for good in Chester’s Forum Shopping Centre next month, with the loss of 23 jobs.

But Forum bosses remain optimistic the shopping centre, which houses Chester Market, has reasons to be cheerful as new shops prepare to take up vacant units.

It was revealed the Co-op store was one of several such branches across the region to close.

A Co-op spokesperson said: “We can confirm our store in The Forum will be closed from Wednesday, November 21.

“Staff at the store have been informed of the decision, which has been taken with the greatest reluctance and is due to the store’s poor trading performance. It is not, in any way, a reflection on the commitment and hard work of the store team.

“Every effort is being made to redeploy as many as possible of the 23 members of staff with The Co-operative, or to help them find alternative employment.”

But there is brighter news for the centre as Trader Direct and Barnardo’s are to open shortly, while one store which has already opened is a new name in health foods.

Grape Tree has been set up by Nicholas Shutts and Nigel Graves Martin who set up and successfully ran the Julian Graves brand before selling it to Holland & Barrett in 2008.

The new store, which has created four jobs, focuses on dried fruit, nuts and confectionery.

Mr Shutts said: “We hope to have opened 12 branches around the country by Christmas.

“Grape Tree is about feel-good foods at bargain prices. Our products will make our customers feel good because they taste good and represent real value for money.”

Asked why he chose Chester for the opening of his first Grape Tree shop, Mr Shutts said: “We know the Forum, having had a Julian Graves store here in the past, and we are convinced Chester will appreciate our offering.”

Forum Shopping Centre manager Lawrence Allen said: “We are delighted to welcome Grape Tree to Chester.

“I have no doubt they have made the right decision in choosing us as the site on which to launch the first store in their chain.”