16 March opening for Newcastle’s “25% bigger” Maplin store
Electronics specialist Maplin has confirmed that its relocated Newcastle branch will open on Saturday 16 March.
The retailer is leaving its current site at 43 Pilgrim Street and moving to the ex-Tiso unit at 100-104 Grainger Street, where it will trade from both the basement and ground floor levels. Maplin claims that the extra space will allow it to hold “25% more products”.
Aside from the extra space, the relocation seems like an overall good move for Maplin. Along the street from the abandoned Odeon, empty since 2002, the location of Maplin’s existing store is becoming increasingly peripheral from a retail point of view, not helped by the absence of any progress on the planned regeneration of East Pilgrim Street – a development site that has had a succession of owners over the last decade or so, and will, in any event, require the demolition of the existing Maplin store if and when a regeneration scheme proceeds.
In contrast, the new site in Grainger Street – which was already largely stocked when I passed by two days ago – is a much more central and visible location, close to the Grainger Market and TJ Hughes in a part of the city centre that has, as I’ve noted before, enjoyed a mini-revival in the last couple of years.
While Hammerson’s high-profile lettings at Monument Mall cement the largely organic evolution of Blackett Street and the Monument area into Newcastle’s high-end retail quarter, the new Maplin sits in the middle of what used to be the ‘Bond Street of the North’ – a largely unsuccessful effort in the late 1990s and early 2000s to promote an upmarket retail offer around Market Street and Grainger Street as part of the Grainger Town Project. These days, the area seems to be finally finding a niche for itself, housing specialist retailers for whom Northumberland Street or Eldon Square is too expensive, the Monument quarter too upmarket, and the Clayton Street area too value focused.
The rate of retail turnover in that part of the city centre has been occasionally nausea inducing, however, thanks in part to the outdoor chain Blacks. In just over four years, it has managed to relocate a Millets into a former Blacks, over the road from the new Maplin; closed down that new Millets in late 2009, after just a year; opened a new Millets around the corner in October 2010, only to close it and rebrand as Blacks three months later; and vacated the site completely earlier this year.
However, a sign in the window indicating that Start Cycles will be ‘opening soon’ suggests that the ex-Blacks won’t be empty for long, though it’s not clear whether this will mean a relocation for the existing Start Cycles store in the ex-Kookai unit two doors away, or whether its existing three Start-branded shops in the street just aren’t enough for the apparently thriving Cramlington-based company.
Meanwhile, with its strong brand, consistently healthy profits and growing strength as a multichannel retailer, Maplin will hopefully stick around for a long time – bringing some stability to a turbulent corner of Newcastle city centre, and providing a quality anchor around which other retail specialists, both multiple and independent, can successfully cluster.
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market intelligence, including detailed coverage of the North East. It also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.