AN expanded Primark store selling home and lifestyle goods and a Smyths Toys superstore are among new offerings welcomed as part of a major £50million improvement programme at Merry Hill shopping centre.

Dudley News: Primark Home has opened at Merry HillPrimark Home has opened at Merry Hill

The Primark Home store, which provides a range of home and lifestyle products in addition to its existing clothing and footwear range, opened this month, while a new Smyths Toys superstore is set to open in the coming weeks, following the arrival of Hamleys in the summer.

Dining options at Merry Hill are also growing with the arrival of German Donner Kebab, and the recently-opened Starbucks drive-thru.

Conversations are also underway with an extensive list of other potential exciting occupiers, according to mall bosses.

The news of a raft of new brands moving in follows an announcement in July that plans are afoot to make Merry Hill the ultimate family shopping and leisure destination in the West Midlands by 2025.

Dudley News: The new exterior at Merry HillThe new exterior at Merry Hill

Rebranding is also set to take place across the mall and from Wednesday (September 29), new signs will be installed across entrances.

A free-to-attend five-day programme of family-friendly entertainment and fun-filled performances and activities has also been organised to celebrate the new-look Merry Hill which has been taken over by London based asset manager Ellandi following the collapse of intu.

Live music performed by musicians from the Resonance music institute, headquartered at The Waterfront, will take place between 10.30am and 1pm.

Carnival dancers will perform throughout the afternoon and there will be secret pop-up acoustic performances throughout the afternoon and evening on Thursday September 30 and Friday October 1.

On Saturday October 2 there will also be a performance by Got 2 Sing Choir at 2pm and street theatre during the day.

Surprise free gifts will also be dished out to shoppers to encourage sustainable shopping.

The performances and activities aim to provide a taste of future plans to bring a diverse programme of arts, culture and entertainment to Merry Hill as part of the centre’s transformation plans.

An engagement process is already underway with representatives from across arts, cultural and educational groups and organisations throughout the region, which will help inform a long-term strategy for performance and experience at Merry Hill.

At the heart of the five-year investment programme are plans to deliver a significantly enhanced leisure offering at the centre, allowing visitors and shoppers of all ages to enjoy fun, sociable, non-retail activities and attractions, as well as restaurants and eateries.

Early concepts for a number of new ‘districts’ throughout the centre are under consideration, each dedicated to entertainment, fashion, health and wellbeing and more.

Dudley News: Proposed well-being districtProposed well-being district

Dudley News: Proposed entertainment districtProposed entertainment districtFood-based pop-ups and culinary experiences designed to champion local retailers and food and beverage supplies will further enhance the leisure experience and extensive plans are being drawn up to better connect the centre to The Waterfront, which is home to independent eateries, shops, the Resonance Music Academy and Black Country Radio.

The next step in the transformation plans will see signage and wayfinding drastically improved throughout the centre and surrounding area, allowing visitors to navigate with greater ease.

Upgrades are due to begin in the coming months, while longer-term plans for the five-year transformation are developed.

Merry Hill centre manager Jonathan Poole said: “We are so excited to finally reveal the new branding for Merry Hill and formally kick off our five-year transformation plan for this destination. Though we will soon have a new look, the iconic Merry Hill name everyone has come to know and love since the centre first opened in 1986 will remain the same.

“It has been all change at Merry Hill this summer and I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes to the many new retailers who have taken space at the centre in recent months. I would also like to thank the thousands of shoppers who visit Merry Hill each and every day, especially those who took part in our biggest piece of customer research in over a decade as we prepared for the future.

“The response to the improvement programme we announced in July has been extraordinary, and we have been delighted by the subsequent enquiries from potential occupiers, shoppers and the many local organisations we’re talking to on a daily basis.

“We are very proud of Merry Hill, particularly in terms of how the centre has performed both during and after numerous pandemic-induced lockdowns. "We’re bouncing back better; the re-opening and lifting of restrictions earlier this year proved there is still a significant appetite for retail destinations where people can spend time and enjoy themselves, with Merry Hill emerging as one of the strongest-performing shopping centres nationally post-lockdown.

“Merry Hill is already one of the leading shopping destinations in the UK, but by 2025 it will be home to even more flagship concept stores, as well as a revitalised leisure offer, to give people a dynamic, exciting destination for years to come. There is substantial commitment and momentum behind the scenes to make our vision a reality and we look forward to welcoming some of the biggest and best-known brands and experiences to Merry Hill.”