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Leeds Corn Exchange to lure fresh crop of indies

Leeds city centre will soon have a new independent hub as the developers of the city’s Corn Exchange entice fashion indies back into the Grade I listed building with favourable rental deals.

Premium menswear indie MKi and maternity and babywear specialist Mummy & Little Me both opened in the Corn Exchange this month, while Upstart, another menswear indie, and accessories indie Little Pink Jewellery are due to open within the next two weeks.

The Corn Exchange was home to a variety of independent retailers until 2007, when it was closed for redevelopment.

Plans to turn the building into a food court floundered as the recession hit, prompting Threadneedle Investment, which leases the building from Leeds Council, to reposition the centre as a predominantly retail offer.

The lower ground floor is occupied by food outlets. However, 10 of the 30 units on the ground floor and mezzanine floors are now occupied by indie retailers, with five more under offer. Sites range in size from just under 100 sq ft to 1,200 sq ft.

MKi co-owner Vik Tailor said: “Most Leeds city centre sites were too expensive for us as a start-up business. We got a brilliant deal here - about £20,000 below what we’d looked at elsewhere.”

MKi occupies a 600sq ft unit and stocks brands such as Comme des Garçons and Aertex. The store owners have used the deal as a launch pad and plan to open a second store in Manchester some time next year.

Mummy & Little Me co-owner Vicky Denby said that while a great rental deal was the initial attraction, she was confident the development would draw high footfall once full.

The Corn Exchange is the third site for Mummy & Little Me, which stocks brands including Arabella B and Toby Tiger in a similar store in Lincoln and a concession in House of Fraser in Birmingham.

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