What a year as Leeds bucks retail trends

RETAIL LANDMARK: The Victoria Gate centre.
RETAIL LANDMARK: The Victoria Gate centre.
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Without doubt this has been the year of retail in Leeds city centre.

With the completion of the long-awaited Hammerson’s development, seeing a £165m vision finally realised in Victoria Gate, the city’s retail offer and follow on impact was totally put on the map.

It is has been the icing on the cake in terms of bringing retail developments to the city when the rest of the UK and indeed Europe were floundering.

When the Trinity opened in 2013 it was the only shopping centre of its magnitude to do do in Europe in that year - a sure sign that Leeds was bucking the trend seen on the continent.

It also meant that retail investment within the Leeds city region had passed the £1b mark in just five years.

At the time experts in the industry predicted Leeds was “not just one of the UK’s leading shopping destinations, but firmly established as one of Europe’s”.

Many of the brands which took up units in Victoria Gate were launching in the city for the first time and also outside of the capital for the first time.

And two months on from that grand opening the novelty doesn’t seem to have worm off.

In the first four days of opening there were 411,202 visitors.

And, just a fortnight ago the Yorkshire Evening Post reported how footfall in the city centre was up by more than 12 per cent compared to the same Christmas shopping run up in 2015 - the equivalent to 919,755 extra visitors.

James Prince, head of branch at John Lewis said: “I can safely say it’s been a very busy period for all involved here at John Lewis Leeds.

“The reception and welcome we have received from shoppers and the local community has been fantastic.”

Council leader, Judith Blake added: “This level of footfall increase shows the immediate impact of Victoria Gate and what a major asset it is, greatly strengthening the retail offer in the city centre as with Trinity Leeds and generating significant benefits for Leeds.”

It can be argued then that there has been a knock on effect too as the development, with another phase still to come, appears to have breathed new life into an area of Leeds that had become downgraded.

Investment is being made into West Yorkshire playhouse and Leeds City College but the major project is a £13m redevelopment of Kirkgate Market by Leeds City Council. It is almost complete and has seen a new daily market, fresh produce and food hall; new activity area with an eight metre LED screen to host live events , exhibitions and screenings plus re-roofing and re-organisation of the car park.

Council statistics suggest that the number of visitors to Kirkgate Market in the run up to Christmas is up by almost 20,000 compared to the same week last year too.

Andrew Cooper, chief executive of Leeds Business Improvement District (BID) said: “We are now the third in the retail rankings thanks to the new Victoria and John Lewis development, and what an amazing development it is.

“ Leeds has the ‘complete shopping offer’ which we can be proud of, and unlike many other cities it is compact and walkable.

“Also in 2016 the city now boasts a fifth place in the conference rankings in the UK, another accolade in 2016 that as a city we should be proud of.”.

Michael Tennant.

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