CASH-and-carry giant Costco is planning to open a huge wholesale store in Southampton bringing more than 250 new jobs.

The American retailer has drawn up proposals for one of its low price big box warehouses on part of the BAT site in Millbrook.

It will stock big name brands, from paper towels and peanut butter to toys and office supplies at discount prices.

However, customers, both trade and the public, will have to pay a membership fee to shop there.

Costco has struck a deal to buy the ten-acre plot off Regents Park Road, formerly used for cigarette manufacturing, subject to planning permission.

A spokesman said the store would provide “at least 160 well paid jobs at opening, rising to at least 250 within three years of opening”.

Positions will range from unskilled jobs for those who with little or no qualifications or training, to craft and operative jobs for which specialist training is given. A number of supervisory and management positions will also be required.

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The spokesman added: “Southampton is an area in which Costco has been looking for a site for many years. The proposed location is within a large regional centre that houses a significant number of small to medium sized businesses that would benefit from the wholesale products on offer at Costco.”

A BAT spokesman said: “We’ve been negotiating this contract for over two years and we believe that this proposal offers a good opportunity for the city.”

Council leader Royston Smith said: “News that another major retailer has chosen Southampton is great for the city. This will create new jobs and will bring new investment to Millbrook and Southampton.

Southampton City Council will continue to do all it can to encourage major businesses into the city to support economic growth and prosperity.”

Costco’s arrival in Southampton would further cement its crown as the retail capital of the south coast.

It comes after American electronics retailer Best Buy opened a store in Hedge End, and Swedish furniture giant Ikea chose the city as a south coast location over rivals such as Portsmouth. The nearest Costco is currently in Reading.

Costco’s 22nd UK store has just opened in Coventry, where the firm had two planning applications rejected at a public inquiry before a third was granted on appeal last summer.

Rival cash-and-carry group Makro has grown to 30 stores in the UK, including Fareham and Poole, with £1 billion in sales, although its membership criteria is more restricted.

The wholesaler will be holding as series of public exhibitions next month to discuss the proposals with residents.

A planning application is likely to be submitted in the autumn. The store could be open for business in 2012.

■ Public exhibitions of the Costco proposals will be held at Thompson Memorial Hall in Testwood Road, Freemantle on September 9, between 3.30pm to 7pm, and on September 11 between 9.30am to 12.30pm.

What is Costco?

Costco is an American company, founded in Seattle in 1983, that runs a chain of warehouses selling both big brand and privately labelled merchandise.

Each Costco warehouse is designed to sell the maximum amount of a particular product line with the minimum display fuss, seven days a week.

As well as food Costco also sells office materials, toys, health and beauty products, and many other nonedible products.

Costco warehouses are open to both trade and selected members of public through a membership scheme, which costs from £20 a year.

They claim to offer 20 to 25 per cent off the prices charged on big-name brands by the likes of Tesco and Asda.

Costco stocks about 3,800 different items at any one time about a quarter of the number at main supermarket rivals.

The firm owns 22 locations in the UK and has a total of 555 warehouses all over the world, mostly in America, which turnover $70bn in annual sales.