Some shops in Great Darkgate Street could make way for the development
Up to 15 shops in Aberystwyth could be made subject of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) under plans for a new multimillion-pound shopping centre.
The development, which could include a Debenhams store and a cinema, is earmarked for a former Post Office sorting site in Chalybeate Street.
Some shopkeepers are unhappy and claim it will be devastating for the town.
Ceredigion council said it would only use CPO powers if a sale could not be agreed between the developer and shops.
Retailers affected by the plans could move into the shopping centre or empty properties in the town, added the council's cabinet.
But a number of shops in Chalybeate and the southern end of Great Darkgate streets would have to be demolished for the project to proceed.
The council said financial support from the Welsh Assembly Government was available for the development, but on certain conditions.
"The Welsh Assembly Government, recognising the strategic importance attached to the development of this site for a quality department store and adjoining retail units, has confirmed in principle, significant financial support towards this scheme and the significant associated land assembly costs," said the council.
It added that the funding support would "only be forthcoming if there is comfort that the council would utilise compulsory purchase powers to assist with site assembly acquisitions" if other negotiations prove unsuccessful.
Two of Polly Leonard's three clothes, jewellery and gift shops in Aberystwyth are in Chalybeate Street.
She said: "From our point of view, it's quite devastating. We have just spent time renovating two of our shops.
"It's devastating too for the town centre to get rid of so many independent shops. I think it'll take from overall feel of the town.
"I think independent shops help tourism. Our customers tell us they visit the area for these types of shops. They don't come here for the chain stores."
It is thought the 90,000 sq ft (27,432 sq m) development would improve spending in the town by £4.8m a year.
It is part of a major project outlining the shape of Aberystwyth for the next 20 years called the Masterplan.