As BHS arrives in Newcastle, G-Star Raw and Thorntons depart
While Newcastle’s BHS prepares for its imminent opening, new departures elsewhere in the city are set to open up other opportunities for incoming retailers.
As flagged in the SkyscraperCity Forums yesterday, the Dutch fashion retailer G-Star Raw is closing its store at the Northumberland Street entrance to Eldon Square: opposite the already-closed La Senza, and across the street from the new BHS. G-Star has traded from that unit since the departure of the short-lived entertainment chain Silverscreen.
While the denim-focused brand clearly has a Superdry-style resonance among certain customer groups, its own-store presence in the UK remains relatively small, with fewer than 20 shops. A year ago, however, the chain was talking of “plans to double its UK retail portfolio from 25 to 50 stores by 2015”, which suggests that there’s been a change in strategy over the last 12 months. Certainly, the widespread stocking of G-Star clothing by other fashion retailers – including many branches of USC and Republic – means that there’s a questionable need for overlapping own-brand stores.
Looking at the Newcastle store specifically, it has perhaps also suffered from being in the wrong place. While the main entrance to Eldon Square sounds like a good location on paper, the set-back position from the street and overhanging signage and canopy mean that a store in either G-Star’s or La Senza’s position has to be quite showy in order to be noticed by passing shoppers. Equally, as the city’s high-end fashion stores start to cluster around Grey’s Monument and the St Andrew’s Way end of Eldon Square, it’s possible that G-Star would fit in better there than in the more populist Northumberland Street.
Meanwhile, a location about to become free in one of those burgeoning fashion quarters is the current Thorntons at 146 Grainger Street. The property is advertising its ‘Shop Lease for Sale’ with a board above the shop, which I always think must be strange for staff and customers when a store is otherwise trading normally and showing no signs of closing down.
The move is not entirely surprising, however, given Thorntons’ well-documented plans to trim its store estate and the presence of two other branches in nearby Eldon Square: one that’s relatively new and attractive on the corner of St Andrew’s Way and High Friars, and another in Eldon Way that features a popular café upstairs.
Happily, the 473 sq ft Thorntons site is directly opposite the recently opened Urban Outfitters, while the fashion brands Jaeger, Pretty Green and Calvin Klein Underwear have all opened boutiquey stores nearby in the last year or so. This buzz around the location suggests to me that the Thorntons site may be an easier sell than the G-Star one – even if, at £78,500 a year, the rent isn’t for the faint-hearted.