Victoria Gate will propel Leeds to third place in retail league

HAMMERSON, the company behind the upmarket £130m Victoria Gate scheme in Leeds city centre, said retailers are getting ready for recovery and major store chains are looking for bigger sites.

In a trading update covering the past four months, Hammerson said occupancy at its shopping malls is above its target at 97.1 per cent.

It has signed 94 leases so far this year, making £9.1m in annual rent.

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Hammerson’s chief executive David Atkins said: “People are still wary to a degree because household budgets are more stretched than they were five years ago, but overall the economy is improving, There is a high level of confidence, and retailers are planning for upturn and recovery.

“If you look at the major UK fashion multiples — the likes of River Island, H&M, Next, Topshop — they are all looking for bigger units, they are upsizing.”

The approval for Victoria Gate, which includes a flagship John Lewis store, means construction work on phase one can start next spring. The city centre mall is expected to open in autumn 2016.

Joe Swindells, Hammerson’s project director for Victoria Gate, said: “We are fully committed to creating a retail development that will not only reaffirm Leeds’s status as a top retail destination for luxury and aspirational brands in the UK, but will also add value to Leeds’s local economy and community.”

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Hammerson believes the Victoria Gate development will turn Leeds into the third biggest shopping destination in England.

The site will help the city move from sixth place in the retail league table to third, behind London and Birmingham.

At the moment Leeds is in sixth place, but the opening of the £350m Trinity Leeds scheme in March is expected to propel Leeds into fourth place over the coming year.

Hammerson said the new development will enable Leeds to leapfrog Manchester to take the number three slot once it opens in 2016.

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It will include 30 additional retail units, six restaurants, new leisure space and an 800-space car park in the city centre.

In yesterday’s update the firm said tenants’ sales were flat in the third quarter, with strong menswear and sports goods sales offset by weak sales of ladies fashion.