The news that Meadowhall shopping centre is to get a £50m facelift reflects the increasing popularity of Leeds as one of Yorkshire’s top retail destinations.
Meadowhall, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year, was seen as the height of retail sophistication when it opened in Sheffield in 1990, but it now faces stiff competition from the highly successful £350m Trinity Leeds development in the city centre and the prospect of a new John Lewis at the £150m Victoria Gate development, which is due to open next autumn.
Meadowhall claims the revamp has nothing to do with Leeds’ renaissance, but with just 30 or so miles between the two cities, they will compete for the same shoppers. Indeed, if Leeds’ renaissance is affecting Manchester, it will definitely hit Sheffield.
Meadowhall’s co-owners British Land said the work, which is set to start this autumn, will create “distinct districts” within the centre, each with a different finish such as wood or punctured metal.
It added that the works will enable a number of retailers to install double height shop fronts.
The refurbishment will also include new “way finding”, mall seating and lighting as well as the installation of dramatic lighting artwork. But will this be enough for Meadowhall to reclaim its Yorkshire retail crown or will usurpers Trinity Leeds and Victoria Gate leave it stuck in the Nineties?
The Victoria Gate development in Leeds is already 40 per cent let ahead of its opening next autumn as stores flock to grab a space next to one of the biggest John Lewis stores outside London.
The scheme is being billed as the latest piece in the jigsaw of the complete regeneration of Leeds city centre.
Property developer Hammerson said the 34,300 square metre scheme, which is adjacent to Victoria Quarter, will consist of a flagship John Lewis store, a two-street arcade with more than 30 aspirational retailers and restaurants and an 800-space multi-storey car park.
While Victoria Gate’s 34,300 square metres pale into insignificance compared with Meadowhall’s 130,064 square metres, Victoria Gate holds a trump card in that its John Lewis anchor will be one of the partnership’s largest stores outside of London at 255,000 to 260,000 sq ft.
Hammerson said that John Lewis will bring in shoppers who don’t currently shop in Leeds in what is widely known in retail terms as “the John Lewis effect” as the store is so popular with shoppers. While Sheffield also has a John Lewis, situated in the city centre opposite the City Hall, it is nowhere near the size of a flagship.
One of the biggest things Leeds has going for it is the rather surprising co-operation between Trinity Leeds and Victoria Gate.
Hammerson said Victoria Gate will be very different to Trinity Leeds, which appeals to a young fashion and mass market audience.
In contrast, Hammerson’s scheme will be pitched at a higher demographic and is aiming for a similar experience to South Molton Street in London, the upmarket pedestrianised street south of Bond Street in the heart of London’s West End.
The developer behind Trinity Leeds, Land Securities, has actually welcomed plans for the Victoria Gate development.
Land Securities’ outgoing portfolio director Gerald Jennings said: “My view is that John Lewis and the new retailers will act as a complementary offer to Trinity Leeds.
“We desperately need a John Lewis and it will bring more people into Leeds.
“Victoria Quarter is about high end retailers. It won’t be competition, it will be complementary,” he added.
Hammerson believes that Trinity Leeds, Victoria Gate and its smaller neighbouring development Victoria Quarter can all live in harmony.
It will be a tough combination for Meadowhall to beat, but if its revamp is a hit with shoppers there is enough demand in Yorkshire for two top retail destinations. Yorkshire’s gain is likely to be Manchester’s loss.