Jack Wills “agrees terms” on Newcastle Monument Mall store
I understand that self-styled “university outfitter” Jack Wills has agreed terms on the prominent corner unit at Hammerson’s Monument Mall, bringing the brand to Newcastle for the first time.
The unit (pictured below), with frontages to both Blackett Street and Northumberland Street, is the space that Evans and Wallis occupied prior to Monument Mall’s redevelopment getting underway, and the site that had been earmarked for a flagship Barclays branch before those plans were turned down by Newcastle City Council in July last year.
In the artist’s impressions that were unveiled at Monument Mall six weeks ago, the unit in question is one of two that were yet to bear the name of a real-life retailer. If confirmed, the new store will be only the second in the North East, after Durham.
So, what of those names that were revealed on the hoardings last month? Well, Armani Exchange and Jamie’s Italian are, even now, still the only two that are officially confirmed, along with the already open TK Maxx (below), of course.
However, Kiehls, the New York-based ‘old-world apothecary’, is believed to have also agreed terms, while Bose and Hugo Boss are both still in the frame. As long rumoured, the basement unit next to Monument Mall Metro – formerly TK Maxx – is most likely to become Sainsbury’s.
I believe there may also be good news soon for the former Peacocks unit, which has seen off four occupants – Peacocks, Zavvi, Virgin Megastore and Next – since Woolworths vacated it in 1984, after trading there for more than 70 years. As speculated previously, Sports Direct – which already had a Monument Mall store prior to the redevelopment – is the likely occupant here, though not necessarily for the company’s eponymous fascia.
For some time, Sports Direct has been understood to be looking to relocate from its Eldon Square premises in Blackettbridge (above), which were originally built for H&M and have an awkward layout due to the way that the unit sails over the top of Blackett Street. However, I’m led to believe that the Eldon Square store won’t now be vacated, and that the Monument Mall premises will trade alongside it, possibly as one of the brands in Mike Ashley’s Premium Lifestyle division.
This part of the business includes the young fashion chain Republic, which Sports Direct acquired in February, as well as USC, Cruise, Van Mildert and Flannels. Might a move be on the cards for Republic, freeing up a slot in the prime St Andrew’s Way stretch of Eldon Square for the Zara or Gap that Newcastle city centre is still missing? We’ll see.
And what of lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret, the name that probably caused most excitement when it appeared on Hammerson’s posters? Well, not such good news, I’m afraid. My understanding is that despite what the hoardings might show, the retailer is very unlikely to open in Newcastle before 2015, with efforts to secure a location – more than likely not in Monument Mall – expected to begin next summer.
It’s all a bit odd, frankly, but if the idea was to test the water and generate a buzz about the brand possibly coming to Newcastle, well, it seems to have worked – even if Hammerson might face the wrath of Tyneside’s young female shoppers for getting their hopes up prematurely.
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market intelligence, including extensive 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.