Two thirds of the brands monitored, including Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret and Zara Home, chose Leeds in their initial phases of expansion outside of London, beating larger cities including Birmingham and Manchester, according to Colliers International’s National Retail Barometer.
The report is published as the city prepares to jump to third on the UK’s regional retail rankings following the opening of the Victoria Gate shopping centre, dubbed ‘The Knightsbridge of the North’, earlier this month.
Colliers International’s National Retail Barometer tracked the openings of 10 international brands, across both luxury and mass markets, none of whom had a significant UK presence prior to the 2008 economic downturn.
According to the report, Leeds was a first stop for six of the brands tracked, primarily a result of the opening of Trinity Leeds in 2013, which provided the space and modern units to house expansive brands. Meadowhall was a top target for four of the brands.
The report was compiled prior to Victoria Gate’s opening which has added to the number of brands choosing the city for early UK expansion.
David Fox, head of retail Agency, North, at Colliers International, said: “The opening of Trinity Leeds had a significant effect on the retail market and has acted as a catalyst, attracting many well-known brands to open regional debut stores in the city.
“With the opening of Hammerson’s Victoria Gate, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see that Leeds will remain a high priority location for brands looking to reach a regional audience.
“We’ve now seen Ghost and Bailey Nelson open their first stores outside London here, and Cath Kidston has also established a base in the city.”
Further findings from Colliers’ Retail Barometer showed that Birmingham, Bath, Brighton and Guildford were top destinations for 40 per cent of the brands, whilst Manchester only attracted three out of the 10 brands in their early expansion (Victoria’s Secret, & Other Stories and Nespresso).
Mr Fox said: “Manchester has some great retailers, but it’s been difficult for the city to attract some of the international brands as they have to choose between Manchester city centre and the Trafford Centre, which as a result has seen neither venue occurring in the top two locations.
“In the same way as in Manchester, retailers must choose between Bristol’s two centres and, as a result, neither centre achieves the same concentration of regional debuts.”
The retail barometer uses rents and centre vacancy data to monitor the health of the UK retail property market.
It also tracks rental growth, and found that no major UK cities have recorded a decline in rents since 2014, whilst 11 have seen a steady increase in rents.
York, Newcastle and Manchester have recorded particularly strong increases in annual rental growth of 17, 14 and 8 per cent respectively (2015-16).
Mr Fox said: “In general it’s larger towns and cities that have performed best, with Rotherham and Bolton examples of large towns to have experienced a fall in rents over the past year.
“Both Rotherham and Bolton sit just within the shadows of Sheffield’s Meadowhall, Manchester’s City Centre and the Trafford Centre.
“The Meadowhall and Manchester Centres have been more successful in attracting shoppers who are prepared to travel further to these locations, attracted by experiential shopping and ample parking.
“This increasing polarisation across the retail hierarchy is the result of changing shopping habits.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen that shoppers are looking for a diversity of retail, restaurants and leisure all in the one concentrated area.”
International brands flock to city’s new shopping centres
COLLIERS International’s National Retail Barometer looked at the early expansion of 10 international brands outside London.
The brands included Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret, & Other Stories, Anthropologie, Urban Decay, Zara Home, KIKO Milano, Smiggle, Nespresso and T2.
Michael Kors, Victoria’s Secret, & Other Stories, Zara Home, and KIKO Milano were among those choosing Leeds as a key location, boosted by Trinity Leeds.
Since the report was compiled, Victoria Gate has also attracted T2, Anthropologie, and Nespresso to the city. The shopping centre is anchored by a flagship John Lewis store – the department store chain’s largest outside of London. Seventy seven per cent of the retailers in the line-up are debuting in Leeds.