The BBC is moving a large percentage of its operations from London to Salford Quays’ MediaCityUK next summer, which is set to raise the profile of the north-west city and bring thousands of jobs to the area.
Retail in the region is sure to benefit from the corporation’s part relocation as more commuters will be travelling through Salford on a daily basis and residential accommodation in the area is also due to expand.
With that in mind Retail Gazette caught up with Rob Hallworth, Centre Manager at the Lowry Outlet Mall, to find out what impact the BBC’s move may have on Salford and its surrounding areas, as well as the local retail industry.
How will the arrival of MediaCityUK affect retail in Salford Quays? The Mall is the biggest footfall driver at the Quays as it stands, in 2009 it attracted over 4.2 million visitors and it is looking to beat this in 2010. So for the mall, MediaCityUK is seen as an additional market to its already successful existing market. I think MediaCityUK will also see the Quays attract more ‘lifestyle’ offerings, as the BBC will operate 24/7. For example, there will be demand for greater dining and convenience names, as well as shopping brands.
What is the occupancy level at the Lowry Outlet Mall today? The occupancy level is 88 per cent capacity and we have signed far more than we have lost in 2009 and 2010. Due to our continuing positive performance, if retailers are performing well there’s no real reason for them to leave.
Is it fair to say that regional shopping centres have struggled to keep occupancy levels high compared to ones in London? Whilst major shopping centres have kept their occupancy levels high it is the secondary shopping centres and the high street that are finding it increasingly difficult to keep existing tenants as well as attracting new occupiers.
What about factory outlets? The factory outlets seem to be immune to the current predicament on the high street as there are no new centres currently being built, so there is no new supply whilst the demand from retailers is growing - especially in centres that can offer something different and new.
Which retailers have signed up to the Lowry Outlet Mall in the last six months? We invested in a lot of research in 2009, really to understand the changing landscape of the surrounding area. This has proved exceptionally useful when attracting new tenants, such as the Gap Outlet anchor store. Other new arrivals include a Holland & Barrett Outlet, Dickies and Bijoux.
Who is set to arrive in the next six months? We are in discussions with several potential retailers. These negotiations are confidential but all the would-be tenants are aware and accept the potential of MediaCity.
What other impact will the BBC’s move have? In terms of how this will affect Manchester, I think a) creative and media companies in Manchester will undoubtedly be attracted to set up shop within the Quays area; and b) Increased transport links with the new MediaCityUK tram stop means that there will be a new market for Manchester city centre and the surrounding areas.
Questions by Ben Sillitoe