Verdict on Victoria Gate launch day

Date: 20th October 2016. Picture James Hardisty.
Official opening of the Victoria Gate, John Lewis, Leeds.

Date: 20th October 2016. Picture James Hardisty. Official opening of the Victoria Gate, John Lewis, Leeds.

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The waiting is finally over and the shopping has started as the Victoria Gate centre and the flagship John Lewis that anchors the £165 million project launched yesterday.

Retail staff and construction workers were still working through the night on Wednesday putting the finishing touches to the different outlets - despite invited dignitaries, and City Buzz of course, enjoying pre launch drinks and canapes in John Lewis.

But after a two hour build up, which saw shoppers queueing from 8am to secure their spot at the front for the 10am opening, all that seemed to be forgotten.

Bright lights, eyecatching displays, high end couture clothing and enough new technology to stop NASA in its tracks makes it all worthwhile.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from St Gemma’s Hospice, Lineham Farm and Care & Repair which are the charities that John Lewis has chosen to support from the Leeds branch.

It is also interesting to note the design of the wider centre with a simple colour scheme of black, white and gold.

It keeps the look of the centre flowing without a mish mash of different coloured shop logos while also being in keeping with the Victoria Quarter design and look too but with a modern twist.

The choice of retailers that have been contracted to the centre is also interesting with 75 per cent of them not already having retailed in Leeds before and for many of those, it is their first venture outside of London.

This is even true with the food and drink outlets that have been brought in.

Sarah Fox is the Head of Speciality Leasing for Hammersons, the developer who brought the project to Leeds.

She told City Buzz that while Pret A Manger is already established in Leeds it caters for the grab and go worker and commuter market a touch of ‘ooh la la’ has been secured for the more leisurely visitor.

Le Pain Quotidienn (meaning my daily bread) which was founded by Alain Coumont when he was a young chef in Brussells offers something totally different to what is already established in this part of the city and that was one of the main points of her brief.

That along with CAU, specifically chosen for the male shopper or disgruntled man waiting for his better half to spend that month’s allowance, and the likes of Anthropologie, COS, Ghost and Bailey Nelson are what will make the difference to current similar offerings.

Leeds-based shopper marketing agency Savvy were on hand to check out Victoria Gate from the moment it opened and believe it has “increased substantially” the tourism offering in terms of retail for Leeds.

Alastair Lockhart said: “It’s the only major shopping centre development to open in the UK this year so is a big vote of confidence in the city.

“It has real character and has introduced a number of new retailers to Leeds. It’s interesting, exciting and enticing.”

The hard work starts now though maintains James Prince, the Leeds John Lewis frontman.

He told City Buzz: “The real job starts now that is about providing a service that people need, taking feedback and modifying the things we need and gearing up for Christmas.”

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