City centre retail market ‘strong’

Leeds's Victoria Gate shopping centre.
Leeds's Victoria Gate shopping centre.
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The city centre retail market in Leeds remains strong but there are question marks over the success of the £165m Victoria Gate shopping development, according to new research.

Colliers International, which launched its annual Midsummer Retail Report 2017 in Leeds yesterday, said Trinity Leeds was well-let but added that some tenants are already looking to move out of Victoria Gate, which opened less than a year ago.

Tom Cullen, Colliers’ retail director for the north, said: “We understand there are some units that are vacant and three are being actively marketed by tenants at this time.”

“For what it’s worth, in my opinion the scheme is almost too high-end and encourages a shopping treat as opposed to day-to-day sales.”

Mr Cullen said that John Lewis and Pret-a-Manger, the latter a late-comer to the scheme, were trading well.

“Phase two is to be leisure-led, we understand, but we feel demand is limited given other deals in the city and the peripheral nature of the second phase of the scheme,” he added.

Meanwhile, the report found that large fashion operators are fighting it out for flagship stores in cities across Yorkshire at the expense of deals for smaller shops. The value fashion market remains a major footfall driver for the forseeable future, it said.

New Look, H&M and Zara are ditching stores of up to 7,000 sq ft in favour of 40,000 sq ft premises in locations including Leeds.

Mr Cullen said Zara moving a few doors down into H&M’s recently vacated unit on Briggate in Leeds city centre was an example of retailers looking to upsize.

Former BHS stores have been snapped up in the most popular locations in the region by the likes of New Look, Decathlon, H&M and Primark, although a large number remain unlet.

In York, there are plans for the empty store to be subdivided. Mr Cullen said the site had received good interest from restaurants and bars including Cosy Club.

While the restaurant market has cooled significantly in Yorkshire, food and drink operators are still taking the best sites in regional city centres, according to Colliers.

Chinese restaurant chain Tattu is opening its second site in Leeds and Cosy Club is said to be taking over the former Next store on Bond Street, joining GBK and Chilango, at the redevelopment.

Meanwhile, the bar market remains competitive in the right places in big cities, Mr Cullen said.

New openings in Leeds city centre include 53 Degrees North on East Parade, and Be at One which opened its second cocktail bar in leeds on Boar Lane and is now looking for premises in York. Jones Group is planning its third Roxy site in the city centre and is continuing to expand across the North.

Greek Street in Leeds has seen a resurgence with a number of new bars and restaurants, including Manahatta, plus the Dakota Deluxe hotel, which opened in May.

“The best bars know their pitches, use strong regional agents and target the right customer base,” Mr Cullen said.

Meanwhile, the redevelopment of parts of the Merrion Centre and the Arena Quarter is making the area more popular, according to the report, with the addition of Marco Pierre White’s new restaurant, My Thai and one of the best trading Costa Coffee sites in the region.

“We expect to see more restaurants and leisure uses taking advantage of the comparatively better deals in this location over the next 12 months,” Mr Cullen said.

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