Victoria Quarter lures new retailers to city

A SHOPPING centre dubbed the "Knightsbridge of the North" has received a vote of confidence in a tough retail environment after signing contracts with four new retailers and retaining one of its flagship brands for another 15 years.

The upmarket Victoria Quarter in Leeds, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next week, has attracted beauty brand Liz Earle, British clothing brand Joules, Australian accessories store Mimco and The Whitewall Gallery to the centre.

In addition, Ted Baker has renewed the lease on its 4,490sq ft store – one of the largest in the centre – committing to a 15-year term and confirming its ongoing confidence in and commitment to the Victoria Quarter.

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Leeds' retail sector is facing increased competition as work on Trinity Leeds and Eastgate Quarter get back on track.

One of the toughest challenges for Victoria Quarter is how to stay competitive when these new shopping centres can offer larger stores in a new building.

Centre director John Bade said: "Like all in retail we're subject to the vagaries of the market, but with these lettings, and despite a very competitive time within the sector, we've been able to maintain our 100 per cent let status. I feel this speaks volumes for VQ's ability to deliver results for its tenants, and confirms the centre's position as one of the foremost shopping destinations in the country."

He added: "Ted Baker's renewal is also another fantastic endorsement for us and is particularly welcome coming as it does on the eve of VQ's 20th Anniversary on September 1."

Beauty brand Liz Earle, launched in 1995 by friends Liz Earle and Kim Buckland, is due to open in November on Queen Victoria Street. Occupying 3,782sq ft over three sales floors and basement, the store is also planned to have a spa and treatment area.

British clothing brand Joules will open a stand-alone store on King Edward Street in October, which covers 3,182 sq ft over three sales floors and basement.

Australian accessories store Mimco will also open a stand-alone in County Arcade in a 783sq ft unit in October, with The Whitewall Gallery joining them further down County, in a 3,287sq ft unit.

Mr Bade said he remained optimistic about trading at Victoria Quarter. "Trading throughout the centre is still strong, something I hope bodes well for the vital Christmas period," he said. "It is not easy to predict what is going to happen but we seem to be running on a par with last year which I am quite pleased with."

The Victoria Quarter celebrates its 20th Anniversary on September 1, when a number of activities and events are taking place in the centre. Lord Mayor of Leeds, councillor James McKenna will give official seal to the day with a cake cutting ceremony at 2.30pm.

The centre was built in the 1980s as an up-market retail destination after the once-vibrant Victorian arcade nose-dived into decay and became part of the poor end of town.

Prudential revived the area with an investment of 6m. The arcade was sold to Yorkshire entrepreneur Paul Sykes in 2001 for 45m in the wake of a review Prudential carried out into its property portfolio.

It was sold again in 2006 to Bank of Ireland Private Banking, on behalf of private clients, in a deal worth 126.1m.

The catalyst for attracting top names, according to Mr Bade, was when Jigsaw opened more than 15 years ago. Since then, it has mirrored the Leeds city boom and attracted recognition from big name fashion houses like Harvey Nichols which chose to locate its first store outside of London there in 1996.