Newcastle roundup: retail lettings remain active as Cath Kidston signs and Office expands
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Cath Kidston is to open a standalone store in Newcastle city centre, it has been revealed.
The upmarket clothing, accessories, bags and homeware retailer – famous for its floral prints and patterns – has signed for the unit at 136-138 Grainger Street, opposite Urban Outfitters, which currently houses the footwear brand Office.
Office, in turn, is following Kurt Geiger in moving to larger premises in Eldon Square, and is taking the spot at 14-16 Blackettbridge – currently empty – that was most recently home to Barratts and, before that, Clintons.
Like L’Occitane en Provence – which recently announced its own plans for a standalone shop in Newcastle – Cath Kidston currently trades from a concession in the nearby Fenwick department store. However, the fact that Cath Kidston is currently recruiting for a “fabulous new team” to run its Newcastle store suggests that the new shop may be an addition rather than a replacement.
Set to “open this year” alongside another new shop in Norwich and a pop-up in Westfield London, Newcastle’s Cath Kidston will take the retailer’s UK store count to nearly 60 shops and concessions, with additional stores operating in Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
As with L’Occitane, Newcastle has had to wait its turn behind Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh to gain a full Cath Kidston store, but it’s good news that it’s finally happening. With the nearby (and short-lived) Jaeger having fallen victim to that retailer’s recent problems, it’s also a positive sign that the top end of Grainger Street is retaining its appeal to retailers as a more premium destination.
The upmarket status of the ‘Monument Quarter’ should be further boosted by Hammerson’s Monument Mall, where the letting to Jamie’s Italian restaurant – inadvertently revealed a few weeks ago – now appears to have been confirmed for the ex-NUFC site facing Blackett Street, thanks to a licensing application having been submitted to Newcastle City Council. Alongside, I understand that Armani, which was also mentioned in Hammerson’s mistaken website update, will indeed be opening one of its Armani Exchange stores as part of the scheme.
It’s not all big chains or new arrivals in that part of town, either. Opposite the likely Jamie’s and next to Hotel Chocolat, long-established independent jeweller Berrys is using the departure of O2 next door as an opportunity to expand its business into 31 Blackett Street.
Meanwhile, O2 – which still has two other Newcastle city centre stores – is understood to be opening a flagship store in the right-hand unit (ex-G-Star Raw) that will be created as part of the new Northumberland Street Eldon Square entrance. This will replace the current store at the top end of Northumberland Street, which has been openly advertised as ‘to let’ for some time.
At the same time, the ex-La Senza spot opposite is set to be occupied by the camera retailer Jessops, in a bold move that will give it a hugely more prominent spot than its current dated store in Newgate Street. Jessops was always going to have to relocate at some point, given that its present store forms part of the delayed Newgate Shopping Centre redevelopment site.
Further along Eldon Way, I believe that a new tenant is also lined up for the ex-Blacks unit, most recently occupied by the fashion chain Blue Inc prior to its relocation to the former Rebel Rebel site in High Friars.
O2’s plans illustrate how mobile phone retailers are now looking to reduce and consolidate their estates after years of movement in the opposite direction. Between Pretty Green and the ex-Jaeger in Grainger Street, for example, Orange is another recent departure – no bad thing, perhaps, if it provides an opportunity for another upscale fashion-focused retailer to invest in the city centre.
Another big opportunity will be presented by the news that Carphone Warehouse is apparently looking to exit its 7,884 sq ft, two-storey store at 43-45 Northumberland Street – the site that housed Newcastle’s short-lived branch of Zara in the early 2000s.
The premises are being openly advertised online at an annual rent of £650,000 – the same as the current rent – though that does seem a little optimistic given how recent lettings in Northumberland Street have seen rental values dip from their peak. Still, it’s a good modernised unit in a great location next to Fenwick, and it could certainly appeal to the right upscale fashion brand. After Zara, having a phone shop occupy such a prominent spot has also seemed something of a disappointment.
Down the street, the nearby ex-Peacocks has over 15,000 sq ft of retail floorspace for a headline rent of £815,000, yet it too remains empty. I understand that at least three retailers have recently shown some interest in the property – for either a new store or relocation – though none have signed. However, with a flagship TK Maxx next door set to open in November as part of the Monument Mall redevelopment, and decent levels of demand for space in Newcastle among incoming retailers, it can only be a matter of time before the site is once again let.
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.