The John Lewis effect: Half a million in one week flock to new Leeds store

Victoria Gate, Leeds
Victoria Gate, Leeds
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Retail analysts have herald the “John Lewis effect” as half a million shoppers descend on the new multi-million pound shopping mall in Leeds.

Footfall statistics, revealed to the Yorkshire Post, show that in just the first 15 minutes of opening last Thursday, 2,000 people passed through the doors of Victoria Gate and that also in just one hour it attracted over 12,000 visitors.

From Thursday to Sunday there were 411,202 visitors.

Some were from as far afield as Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland.

James Prince, head of the branch, said: “We had always anticipated it was going to be a busy first week, but its safe to say the response so far has exceeded all expectations.

“Last Saturday was one of the busiest shopping days John Lewis has ever seen, and I was extremely proud to see the doors open and people enjoying the brilliant offer our team have worked so hard to put together here in Leeds.

“Our partners have done a brilliant job and we hope the first week success continues as we start to gear up to Christmas.”

Industry leaders say that the completed development will boost the city’s profile as much as it will add to the economy.

The £37 million John Lewis store, which covers an unprecedented five floors and is the largest outside of London, is the anchor of centre and the major pull for the public and has also contributed to the rejuvenation of a previously run down area of the city centre.

John Lewis in Leeds alone has created 550 jobs with 75 per cent of those being allocated to workers from within the city region.

Redevelopment of Kirkgate Market is on-going and other projects are in the pipeline for the Quarry Hill area with the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Leeds City College.

Gerald Jennings, president of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce said: “The arrival of John Lewis is a huge accolade for Leeds and it will be a major boost not only to Leeds’s profile but also to its economy. The jobs that have already been created is a testament to that.

“I have no doubt that the store and Victoria Gate will attract many more people into the city, in turn benefiting an already vibrant city centre and more jobs and economic activity will be created as a result.

“The knock on effects - the John Lewis “halo” – should not be underestimated. We’re already seeing complementary investment by Leeds City Council in the market and there are further proposals being planned.

“This latest addition to Leeds’s assets will raise our profile across the whole of the UK and the confidence it shows will only serve to attract more investment into Leeds.”

It has been 30 years since John Lewis expressed interest in sourcing a site in Leeds but it was not until 2011 that a suitable location was found opposite the current Victoria Quarter area of the city and an outline application submitted to Leeds City Council.

Work started in Spring 2014 on the £165 million shopping centre which has transformed the area that was formerly a car park and disused police station.

During last Thursday’s launch event people had waited for over two hours as queues formed from 8am so they could be amongst the first to shop at John Lewis.

Sisters Julie Gray and Claire McManus were among the early birds.

They had said: “We wanted to come to John Lewis and have been saving up.”