Initial reactions to the new St Andrew’s Way mall at Eldon Square

Debenhams, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

Debenhams, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

I might have been busy at work at 10:30 a.m this morning, but many thousands of others evidently weren’t, judging from the crowds that attended the grand opening of St Andrew’s Way! Such was the excitement, Eldon Square was once again a trending topic on Twitter for much of today, while even the editor of industry bible Retail Week was there to see things first hand.

New Look, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

New Look, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

Debenhams, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Debenhams, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

By the time I popped in to the new mall just after 5, things had calmed down somewhat, but there were still plenty of people having a good look around. I was able to get some better photos of the street frontages (using a proper camera this time), but thought better of getting any interior shots, given how many police officers were wandering about. However, Peter – aka ‘Newcastle Historian’ from the SkyscraperCity forums – has kindly let me plunder some of his own pics from inside the mall.

St Andrew's Way, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

St Andrew's Way, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

Clayton Street frontage, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Clayton Street frontage, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

First impressions are really positive – the inside of the mall is wide and bright, and the double height means that most of the retailers have created truly dramatic frontages. Debenhams’ looks great, Republic’s is as impressive as promised, and Apple’s is the bold statement that you would expect.

Best of the lot though must be Hollister. The store’s not yet open (and won’t be until April, apparently), but its shopfront is pure MetroCentre Mediterranean Village, circa 1986 – striking, kitschy, but totally on brand. It does mean that with most of the shop frontages being so flamboyant, Schuh’s – which would look very nice anywhere else – feels rather tame.

Apple Store, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

Apple Store, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

Debenhams, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Debenhams, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

Facing Clayton Street, the new Tesco Metro looked to be completely crammed with after-work shoppers, while Poundland’s new shop also seemed lively.

Tesco Metro, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Tesco Metro, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

Clayton Street frontage to Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Clayton Street frontage to Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

Poundland, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Poundland, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010)

As I’ve remarked before, a successful Tesco store probably does not bode well for the nearby Co-op food hall. However, there can surely be no better opportunity than now for the whole of the former Co-op department store building to be brought back into use. Just looking at all the people busying around in Newgate Street this evening, it really is now a great pitch, directly opposite Debenhams. If Harvey Nichols ever made up its mind to come to Newcastle, it need surely look no further for a stunning landmark property in a fantastic, prime location.

Former Co-op department store, Newgate Street (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Co-op department store, Newgate Street (16 Feb 2010)

I also had a look around the older parts of Eldon Square, where there are now various voids from retailers moving into the new part of the shopping centre. However, these vacated units have all been screened off already – complete with ‘exciting new retailer coming soon’ banners – so merely look blank and dark rather than obviously empty. On the other hand, the existing Poundland in the old post office premises and the current All Saints in Market Street were both still happily trading when I walked past this evening, suggesting that those stores will be retained alongside their brand new Eldon Square siblings.

All Saints, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

All Saints, Eldon Square (16 Feb 2010). Photograph by Peter (aka 'Newcastle Historian')

I read this morning that five of the six now-empty sites in Eldon Square have new occupants lined up, which is very good news if true. Certainly, the banner at the former Arcadia site promises a ‘new flagship retailer’ soon – almost certainly Next. Meanwhile, at least part of the site of the former Republic store is going to be Foot Locker, presumably moving from its existing Northumberland Street site. So, tick this off as yet another seemingly un-Woolies-related blog post that in fact has a faintly obscure Woolworths link

Graham Soult

Retail consultant, writer, blogger; helping retailers via CannyInsights.com and CannySites.com. Say hello on Twitter at @soult!

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