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Talking Business: Why the success of a retail destination is in more than the mix

It’s no secret that any retail destination’s success is in the alignment of the occupier mix with the catchment demographic. However, by taking a location and its catchment at face value, landlords are often missing a trick when it comes to maximising schemes for the brands and the local population.

We’ve taken a different approach with Friars Walk retail and leisure development, which opens in Newport, Wales, today (November 12). Looking at every scheme individually, we consider the surrounding environment - including the existing retail mix - to see what could be achieved and take the time to get under the skin of a scheme’s demographic to create a realistic but aspirational mix of the clothing brands people desire.

Friars Walk in Newport

Friars Walk in Newport

Newport had been losing many of its occupiers – fashion brands in particular - to out-of-town schemes, leaving the retail core in dire need of regeneration, until a loan from Newport City Council enabled us to unlock the scheme at the heart of the city.

Our leasing strategy focused on securing high street fashion brands that would appeal to Newport’s diverse demographics of students, local residents and the surrounding area. This included bringing our anchor Debenhams to Newport for the first time, as well as Next, H&M, Topshop and River Island, who will be joined by a few independent and local brands to bring a unique flavour to Friars Walk. As a result the scheme is opening at 85% let, with another 5% of units under negotiation. To complement this mix are food and beverage operators, as well as an eight-screen Cineworld multiplex cinema, to cement family footfall to the scheme.

The design of Friars Walk by Leslie Jones Architecture has also been central to our strategy. By creating a more characteristic scheme within an open, streetscape environment, we can match the quality of our fashion brands while increasing footfall through the scheme. In addition, we used local materials to rationalise the scheme’s place as in the cityscape, thereby ensuring its success for decades to come.

The benefits of this design-led, aspirational retail approach go far beyond the returns to that scheme. It helps uplift civic pride in an area, stimulating further investment from both local and national businesses – thereby creating wider regeneration, more jobs and prosperity. All of which brings yet more spend and footfall back to the brands in the scheme.

Stuart Harris is commercial director and co-founder of Queensberry Real Estate


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