Shopping centre Trinity Leeds is to open its doors today, offering one million square feet of selling space and creating 2,600 new jobs.
Now 90 per cent let with five per cent in solicitors’ hands, the £378 million centre from property company Land Securities is the only major shopping mall to open in the UK this year and seeks to drive footfall across the city while introducing new brands to shoppers.
Offering 46 brands new to Leeds, the centre houses around 100 stores and 20 restaurants with tenants including Apple, Superdry, Mango and D&D restaurants, and features “advanced digital capability”, according to a statement from Land Securities.
Interactive screens, LED advertising screens, Google product search and free wi-fi are all available, as well as a Trinity Leeds app featuring GPS while staff will hold iPads to strengthen its customer service offering.
CEO of Land Securities Robert Noel explained the significance of the launch, commenting: “Trinity is good for the people of Leeds, good for retailers and is already a big success for Land Securities.
“Despite economic uncertainty, major shifts in retailing habits and a challenging city centre site, Land Securities has built Trinity Leeds on time, on budget and nearly fully let at opening.
“Trinity Leeds demonstrates both Land Securities’ ability to develop profitably in challenging conditions and our confidence in Leeds as a prime retailing destination.
“Land Securities is a long-term investor in Leeds and we have every confidence that Trinity Leeds will be a huge success.”
Late night shopping will be a regular occurrence at the centre in a bid to boost the city’s evening economy, though experts note that the arrival of the centre will boost the retail sector as a whole.
John Cooper of property consultancy Deloitte Real Estate, which acted on the development, expects Trinity Leeds to rejuvenate the industry and said it was “incredibly rewarding” to see the project completed.
“This is a phenomenally good scheme,” Copper said.
“Trinity is not just a significant development for Leeds, but also for the entire retail sector – this is the only major retail completion due to take place in the UK in 2013, and with that in mind the eyes of the nation’s retailers will be on Leeds.
“One scheme can’t change an entire national landscape, but this does show there is life in the high street yet.
“Trinity Leeds arrives as we see many retailers decreasing the amount of floorspace they operate, embracing online as they move towards a multi-channel model.
“It is incredibly rewarding to see a project like this progress and come to fruition against such a tough economic backdrop.”
Increased footfall in the area will also help boost sales for independent and local stores, it is hoped, and Catherine Shuttleworth, CEO of Savvy Marketing, said that all retailers in the city must capitalise on the opportunity this presents.
Shuttleworth told Retail Gazette: “The opening of Trinity will place Leeds firmly into the premier league as a retail destination.
“That is great news for all retailers in the city who will benefit from increased footfall - including a proportion of higher spending shoppers who previously may have been lured across the Pennines to Manchester or the Trafford Centre.
“For local retailers the key is differentiation. Be different, shout about great product and provide a customer experience that will keep shoppers coming back.”
The centre will have to work hard to maintain the interest of pinched consumers as shopping centre footfall continues to struggle.
Last month, the Local Data Company announced that shopping centres reported the highest shop vacancy rate in 2012 with an overall average of 15.6 per cent though Shuttleworth believes this highlights the fast-evolving nature of retail.
“Vacancy rates are rising because the dynamics of the retail market are changing,” Shuttleworth explained.
“On one hand we are amidst a severe economic downturn which is causing shoppers to think more carefully about how they spend.
“On the other hand shoppers are buying more products online, which clearly presents growing competition for high streets.
“However what we see is that some high streets are affected far worse than others.
Shoppers are targeting their spend towards the biggest and best centres – like Leeds – that offer vast choice, a pleasant shopping environment and places to eat, drink and be entertained .
“Smaller centres with limited choice are losing out, unable to compete with ranges and prices offered online and lacking the destination appeal of larger centres.
“For Trinity to build and maintain footfall it must offer shoppers real reasons to visit and to part with their hard earned money. Maintaining a strong and well balanced tenant mix will be crucial, but it also needs to look beyond its own walls.
“It would be well advised to collaborate with other retailers in the city, as well as Leeds City Council to ensure they are working together to provide a great convenient and relevant shopping destination with plentiful and affordable parking – that encourages footfall, rather than sends it elsewhere.”
Locals though, seem to have welcomed the new offering and Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council, said that the opening of the development “speaks volumes” for the confidence that investors have in the city.
Wakefield added: “Trinity Leeds brings a very welcome and timely jobs boost, creating opportunities for businesses and local people to gain skills and employment and much-valued apprenticeship opportunities for our young people.
“Alongside our own Arena project, which opens in July, this investment is transforming the city centre, strengthening the economy and underlining how Leeds is lifting the Northern economy out of recession”.