Adidas and Toys R Us move quickly to fill Intu Eldon Square voids
In recent months, the St Andrew’s Way section of Newcastle’s Eldon Square has seen its first tenant departures since opening in February 2010, with the loss of Republic and Guess. Both units are set to be quickly refilled, however, as two big names – Toys R Us and Adidas – move in to fill the gaps.
Subject to great fanfare when it opened, the Republic store initially survived the chain’s collapse into administration in February this year, but closed in June when Republic’s rescuer, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, was unable to agree a reduced rent deal with the landlord, Intu.
Clearly, while some property owners preferred the idea of Republic staying in situ on a reduced rent to the prospect of an empty unit, Intu’s view appeared to be that doing so made no sense as a business decision, given that other retailers would be queuing up to take any prime space that Republic vacated.
And so it has proved, certainly at Eldon Square. Just four months after Republic’s closure, Toys R Us has taken over the 8,392 sq ft unit on what appears to be a Christmas pop-up basis, making Newcastle only its third shopping centre store – and the first in a provincial city centre – following similar openings at Bayswater’s Whiteleys last year and Glasgow’s Silverburn last week. The store is set to open this Wednesday (23 October), with ‘Grand Opening Fun’ on Saturday 26th.
From visiting Eldon Square last week, it seemed clear that beyond bringing in shelving and applying its own logo to the fascia, Toys R Us has made minimal changes to the unit it inherited from Republic.
For the moment then, the retained “striking fascia framed with iron girders” and industrial-style mezzanine should make for a rather intriguing and unusual Toys R Us store environment, though further work may follow if – as at Whiteley’s – the store is a success and continues to trade beyond the Christmas period.
A couple of doors away, Adidas is quite literally counting down to the 29 November opening of its new store on the former Guess site, following initial speculation this summer that it would be taking the ex-Republic spot.
Digital screens installed into the frontage (shown in the picture at the top of this blog post), together with the invitation to ‘Spread the Word’ using the Twitter hashtag #betherenewcastle, are an effective way of trumpeting and building a buzz around the store’s opening in more than a month’s time.
All this clever marketing bodes well for Adidas making a greater success of the location than its predecessor. The final name to be confirmed for St Andrew’s Way four years ago, it’s notable that Newcastle’s branch of Guess always seemed to struggle: its store appeared overspaced, understocked and (more often than not) eerily empty, perhaps suffering from being a brand that still lacks resonance and familiarity in the UK market, and having a store environment that just felt cold and unwelcoming.
Indeed, among local commercial property circles it had been widely understood for some time that Guess was looking to exit the unit. The suddenness of its closure – without, as far as I’m aware, much warning or a closing-down sale – followed almost immediately by Adidas taking over the site, suggests that Guess was waiting until it had another retailer lined up to take its place.
As with Toys R Us, it’s another eyecatching letting for Newcastle, too. Though Adidas products are widely available on Tyneside – in stores such as at Fenwick and Cruise – with a large Adidas outlet store down the road at Dalton Park, the Eldon Square shop will be only the eighth standalone city centre Adidas store to open in the UK, following the launch of its Trinity Leeds branch back in August.
With Hammerson’s Monument Mall also bringing some high-profile names to the city – including the now-open Kiehls and Jack Wills stores – it seems that Newcastle’s appeal as a retail destination is continuing to thrive, despite the challenges posed by the continued economic downturn and the inexorable growth of online shopping.
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.