Decathlon, Aldi, Metro Bank and more: who’s been snapping up ex-BHS space in March?
French sports specialist Decathlon has today become the latest retailer to announce that it’s taking over ex-BHS space, with its new 18,000 sq ft store at Intu Uxbridge set to open this summer.
As the first anniversary of the collapse of BHS approaches, it’s worth looking back at what I said at the time. Back in April, when there was still some possibility that all or some stores could be saved, I explained to Marketing Week that:
We are now in quite a different situation from when Woolworths collapsed seven years ago, as many of the retailers who took over Woolworths’ largest branches – Primark, H&M, TK Maxx and Wilko, for example – are themselves reaching saturation, and are already represented in most of the locations that BHS’s likely demise will free up. Sports Direct, already talked about as a possible suitor, will no doubt take some sites, and there is still room for retailers like B&M to grow.
In August, by which time the full closure of BHS had been confirmed, I reiterated to the Observer that many retailers had “used [the demise of Woolworths] to plug the gaps in their portfolio”, with the size and location of BHS stores meaning that many could take quite a while to fill.
What’s been happening since BHS closed?
Seven months on, there are still plenty of empty BHS stores, including branches in this part of the world in Newcastle, South Shields, Durham and Darlington. Nevertheless, there have been some high-profile and welcome lettings, too.
— Graham Soult (@soult) January 25, 2017
Hartlepool was one of the first to be snapped up, by value chain B&M, while other retailers are using the opportunity to fill the odd hole in their portfolios (like Wilko in Truro) or relocate an existing store to a bigger and better space (such as Next at Metrocentre).
As I predicted a year ago, Sports Direct has also been busy, taking the Sunderland site for a combined Sports Direct and USC, and Middlesbrough for a branch of its designer fashion chain Flannels – which I spoke about to ITV News back in November.
— Graham Soult (@soult) February 18, 2017
There have been quite a few BHS letting updates from around the UK in March, all of which feature in the upcoming April edition of my monthly Soult’s Retail Report – a 50-page document, available by subscription, that is packed with information and insight on the most significant openings, closures and new developments across all parts of the UK, covering multiples and independents, high streets and out of town, and expanding chains and new market entrants.
So, here – as a sample of what you can expect to find in Soult’s Retail Report – are all those ex-BHS developments to be aware of from just the last three weeks.
Among retail geeks, Uxbridge BHS is notable for being the first branch to be given a modern look, in 2010, following the introduction of a new logo and Dalziel & Pow storefit – subsequently seen at new store openings such as Swindon, Hartlepool and Newcastle.
Though impressive, it was a makeover that failed to improve BHS’s fortunes, and was in any case just too ambitious to be applied across the old and sprawling estate.
As I wrote in 2015, Decathlon initially expanded quite slowly in the UK, after opening its first store at Surrey Quays in 1999, covering 43,000 sq ft. By the time store number 19 opened in Gateshead in December 2015, covering a more modest 15,000 sq ft over two levels, Decathlon had started to experiment with more compact formats that would allow it to grow more quickly.
It has continued to try different formats since then, including a prime town centre store in Crawley and a compact store inside the out-of-town Asda in Tamworth.
— Graham Soult (@soult) July 29, 2016
— Graham Soult (@soult) December 22, 2016
In St Helens, a joint Poundland and Pep&Co store is opening in the Church Square shopping centre tomorrow (23 March).
Value fashion chain Pep&Co – which I’ve blogged about plenty of times before, and has also been opening shop-in-shops within existing Poundland stores – is new to St Helens, while Poundland is relocating from its store in Church Street (the ex-99p Stores, and before that Woolworths).
Bournemouth Mallard Road
As reported in the local press this month, Aldi is to open at the former BHS site at Mallard Road Retail Park in Bournemouth.
Further digging reveals that Aldi is taking about two thirds – or 17,464 sq ft – of the ex-BHS unit, with an anticipated opening of “summer 2017”.
The remaining 7,626 sq ft is available to let, but it seems unlikely to be empty for long – the retail park is attractive and already well anchored (Homebase, Smyths Toys, Currys), and this will be the only vacant unit once Aldi opens.
Metro Bank – the new high-street bank that sees itself as “shaking up” British banking – has confirmed that it will open its first ‘store’ in the South West at the ex-BHS site in Broadmead, Bristol. No opening date has been confirmed yet.
Metro Bank is expected to share the BHS site with TK Maxx, which lodged a planning application in January, and currently trades from the top floor of the nearby Galleries shopping centre.
Burton upon Trent
Next has been given the go ahead for its planned new store in Burton this month. It will vacate a 8,500 sq ft unit in St Modwens Walk, and occupy 25,000 sq ft of the former BHS at Coopers Square.
A deal for the remaining 19,500 sq ft of the ex-BHS is expected to be announced “shortly”. Meanwhile, Next is aiming for an autumn 2017 opening in its new location.
Primark has this month applied for planning permission to make alterations to the loading bay of the ex-BHS in Southend High Street.
However, there is no further detail yet on Primark’s intentions for the site, or what it would mean for its existing store in the town.
Interested in working with me? Head over to CannyInsights.com to find out how I help organisations improve their market insight and digital marketing, or subscribe to Soult’s Retail Report for monthly insights into retail developments around the UK.
By supporting Soult’s Retail Report, you are also helping to sustain the informative (and free) blog updates – like this one – that so many in the retail industry find interesting, enjoyable and valuable.