FAMILY owned department store Watt Brothers is planning for a major expansion drive which will create hundreds of jobs.

The independent retailer currently trades from eight locations and intends to open in Port Glasgow and Irvine while another four sites are under consideration.

Managing director Willie Watt, the fourth generation of the family to be involved in the business, also wants to increase the floorspace at its smaller stores in Clarkston, Ayr and Livingston.

Mr Watt is hopeful at least two new stores will be up and running before the end of this year.

He said: "There is a market for people wanting good quality merchandise in the central belt.

"We try to encompass all different products in our stores. That is the main thing.

"We feel there is still an opening for good, branded merchandise rather than the low end, which is not what everybody wants."

In recent years the company has opened in Hamilton, Clydebank and Robroyston while also increasing the size of its Lanark store by 50 per cent.

Mr Watt expects the latest expansion plan will mean staff numbers growing from 500 to more than 850 over the next few years.

He said: "If you are creating more employment it can only be a good thing."

While staying tight lipped on other possible destinations for the company Mr Watt admits there are some town centres in Scotland which it would not make sense to go into.

He said: "For us now [it is] retail parks, shopping centres and any town centres which are still buoyant.

"A lot of the high streets are not in a good shape so we wouldn't want to go into those but it depends [on the opportunity]."

Mr Watt said even bigger town centres are having difficulties in attracting shoppers pointing out that high parking charges are not helping retailers.

The business expects to report turnover of between £25 million and £30m in 2015.

While Mr Watt indicated the current expansion plan is focused on Scotland there are opportunities in England.

He said: "There are a lot of people who would like us to open up down south but I don't know if we want to keep it just as a Scottish thing."

According to Mr Watt the company's distribution hub in the Govan area of Glasgow has enough capacity for the next few store openings. It could also move to 24-hour operation if necessary.

Mr Watt, great grandson of the company's founder, also ruled out the business moving into online retail.

He said: "Our view is that retailing is about the whole experience and a customer coming in. I don't want to lose that.

"If we were to go down an online route that would take customers away from our stores. We want them to come in and enjoy that experience.

"The key is you have to make your value the same as the internet and you have to keep paying attention to that."

Watt Brothers can trace its roots back to the late 1800s when Allan Watt set up a small drapery shop to augment the family's income from farming.

In April 1915 Watt Brothers was formed as a limited company and moved into its flagship location on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Hope Street in Glasgow city centre.

For decades it sold only upmarket women's fashions with a second store, in Clarkston, opening during the 1950s.

Allan Watt, grandson of the original founder and father of the current owner, was a member of the 400 metres relay team at the 1948 London Olympics. He was a Scottish 100 yards champion and a member of the Shettleston Harriers club.