Not what I had in mind for the old Newcastle Zavvi store…
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When I remarked a couple of weeks ago that Newcastle’s “Monument Mall would surely welcome the arrival of a strong anchor store” following the closure of Zavvi, a potential new branch of Barclays Bank was not exactly what I had envisaged.
Today’s Journal reports that “some members of Newcastle’s commercial property community have expressed dismay at the potential move”, and no wonder – the idea of the prime Northumberland Street site being lost to retail use is a crazy one.
Over the years, The Journal’s commercial property section has repeatedly cited the problem of big-name retailers who want to move to Newcastle not being able to find units of the size and quality that they require. This, indeed, has also been mentioned as the logic behind Eldon Square’s current redevelopment, where two-storey, modern units are being created. Against this backdrop, it certainly seems bizarre to take a 17,000 sq ft, three-storey unit out of the city’s retail equation.
It’s hard too to see how filling one of Monument Mall’s most prominent units with a bank will do very much to invigorate the rest of the mall. One of Zavvi’s strengths was having entrances/exits on all three shopping levels of Monument Mall, as well as to Northumberland Street, helping shoppers permeate throughout. It would seem unlikely, however, that Barclays would wish to keep so many entrances, or indeed even make public use of all three floors.
Even Northumberland Street – though in reasonably fine fettle, anchored as it is by the stalwarts of Fenwick, M&S, Bhs, Primark, Next and H&M – would surely benefit from something different to the banks, phone shops and coffee shops that have mushroomed along its length in recent years.
A separate issue is what would happen to Barclays’ existing city centre branches assuming, as The Journal notes, that any planning application to change the old Zavvi’s use from A1 (retailing) to A2 (financial services) was successful (something that is not guaranteed). While other banks have scaled back their city centre presence in recent years, Barclays still has four branches in relatively close proximity to each other – at the top end of Northumberland Street; on the corner of Percy Street and Gallowgate; in Grainger Street, next to Central Arcade; and the rebranded Woolwich opposite the old Odeon in Pilgrim Street (I don’t think I’ve missed any others). It seems highly unlikely that all of these would be retained in addition to the proposed new branch, but none are really in top-notch retail locations – perhaps part of the rationale for Barclays seeking a more central site.
If this were the case, Barclays’ move would mirror that of HSBC a few years ago, where several Newcastle city centre branches were closed and their operations consolidated into a new Grey Street flagship. The difference, though, is that HSBC’s move didn’t result in the loss of an existing retail site, given that the premises it moved into had previously housed branches of Pizza Hut and TSB.
As always, your thoughts and reactions are welcome. Most obviously, what retail name would you like to see moving into Newcastle’s old Zavvi store? Or, perhaps, are you excited at the prospect of a new shiny branch of Barclays?
Update: That’s neat! Impressed that Google has not only picked up this blog post within an hour of me publishing it, but that it shows up higher in the search results for ‘zavvi barclays newcastle’ than the Journal article that prompted it :)
Thank you to Mankind 2k for the use of his photograph of Newcastle’s old Zavvi store, which is © Copyright Mankind 2k and licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence.