The opening of another multi-million pound retail development in the city centre is set to put Leeds among Europe’s major shopping destinations.
There are just three weeks to go until the £165 million Victoria Gate development opens its doors with British and international brands, plus 120 ‘Made Locally’ products, across the five floor flagship John Lewis - the first branch to open in the city.
The opening of the Victoria Gate development comes just three years after the launch of the Trinity Centre which boasts 120 shops, cocktail bars and restaurants.
Hammerson, the developer behind Victoria Gate, has radically changed the face of a part of the city that had, over the years, become run down and neglected and the centre reflects the fast pace upon which retail and development is progressing within the city following what some industry experts dubbed “a slowing down” after the introduction of Harvey Nichols in the late 1990s.
A spokesperson for the Leeds Chamber of Commerce told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The last three years has seen Leeds rise back up the retail rankings, with the opening of Trinity Leeds credited as a major catalyst. Since 2013, Leeds has been a magnet for new brands, who clearly see the great commercial opportunities, the vibrancy and the confidence which the city centre now presents. The opening of John Lewis reinforces this message very powerfully.
“Leeds also has a strong independent retail sector, which I believe are the city’s fingerprints, its unique selling points. In talking up Leeds we must not forget about the great shops in the Corn Exchange, Kirkgate Market and other parts of the city centre.
“There is already a lot of great work going on promoting the city to both leisure and business tourists. We must build on this, especially as we lead up to the 2023 European Capital of Culture which I am hoping Leeds is successful in securing. Putting Leeds on the map for European visitors could be hugely beneficial for the city’s economy.”
This is part of the reason that the John Lewis brand was eventually attracted to Leeds.
New store manager James Prince said: “Finding the right site and working with a developer that is able to take on board a development of this scale - these things are not easily done.
“But we are really pleased to be here. It is a flagship store and Leeds was on the list of destinations that we as a business needed to be.
“We have been talking about this for 15 years and now we are three weeks away. I genuinely think the Leeds public have no idea what to expect.”
Mr Prince added that Leeds City Council had backed the John Lewis project as the authority realised the benefits it would bring to the city in terms of jobs, footfall and spend.
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, added: “The evolution of the Leeds retail scene over the last few years has been nothing short of spectacular and our status as one of the country’s leading shopping destinations in now firmly established.
“The imminent opening of the Victoria Gate development is yet another hugely significant addition to the city’s economic landscape and follows on from other successful projects like the opening of Leeds arena and the launch of Trinity Leeds, both of which have had a transformative effect on the local economy.
“Major projects like this take years of preparation, planning and commitment from both developers and those working behind-the-scenes, so it is a huge endorsement for the city that developments of this scope and scale have continued to progress and to make Leeds such a thriving and attractive place to live, work and visit.”
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