Greggs' success continued unabated in 2023, said @retail. Credit: via Four Walls

Rethinking retail key to 2024 success, says consultancy

Investment in improved spaces and more focus on community uses can be driving forces for North East shopping in 2024, according to regional consultancy @retail.

Director Ian Thurlbeck said that in the face of gloomy headlines, there are success stories in the region, both in Newcastle city centre and in high streets across the patch. And some brands just continue to grow:

Greggs goes on and on

The Newcastle-based high street staple will again be in expansion mode in 2024, said Thurlbeck.

He said: “2023 was a record year for Greggs with 220 new site acquisitions, resulting in a net 145 new shop openings.

“The company will continue its expansion this year as it seeks a broad mix of location types and concepts including roadside, retail & leisure parks, transport hubs and high streets to support its ambitions to expand to more than 3,000 stores.”

Within the North East, @retail continues to act for Greggs to identify and secure new premises, including a recent 1,000 sq ft deal at Cleveland Retail Park, the store opening just before Christmas.

A strong sense of community

According to Thurlbeck, challenging times highlight the need for stronger communities and Covid-19 proved to be a significant moment for community interest groups and other non-commercial entities who occupy retail spaces.

He said: “In 2024, there is a better understanding of the many benefits that community organisations can offer as occupiers of commercial premises and we believe it also points the way to a growing commercial property sector that is more focused on securing the right occupier for a scheme, rather than the largest or most profitable business.”

Within the community area, @retail projects include the Addison Court assisted living development in Benwell, where Your Homes and Newcastle City Council have developed fully fitted space and secured a community organisation to operate the site, which will open this month.

Newcastle to attract more big names

Thurlbeck said: “Encouraging levels of demand for prime retail locations in central Newcastle will not only lead to more new brands arriving in 2024 but will also underpin the creation of the next phase of retail and leisure development.

“In 2023 @retail concluded lettings to high end brands including Breitling, Dune, Whitewall Galleries and Cinnabon. More leading brands, such as Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Fairly, Anthropologie, Sostrene Grene and Oliver Bonas are actively looking for prime opportunities in areas of Grainger Street, Blackett Street and Northumberland Street.

“Such confidence in the city is vital for developers such as Taras Properties who recently submitted a planning application to redevelop the former Sports Direct premises at Monument Mall to create new retail, leisure and F&B opportunities, including a new rooftop bar. @retail and Savills are working on behalf of Taras Properties to identify and secure occupiers for the new development.”

High streets are alive and well

Major city centres are one thing, but is the outlook for high streets through the region as bright? Thurlbeck said that despite a gloomy national picture, the business has seen footfall improve in many North East locations in the years since the pandemic.

He added: “Our vibrant market towns and popular coastal towns are attracting increasing numbers of holiday makers and visitors from across the UK and abroad, providing a significant boost for retailers.

“In Whitby @retail has successfully attracted clothing brand Saltrock to a vacant unit in an off-market deal, negotiating a higher rent in the process. There are more deals like this one to be done – it’s a case of thinking smarter and looking for the right opportunities.”

Right place, right time

What will be vital in 2024, said Thurlbeck, is providing the right product for retail and leisure operators to work from. He said: “Retailers will continue to require well designed, flexible space in the best locations, so the need to bring forward new development across the North East will be as pressing as ever.

“We saw this at first hand in 2023 on the back of completing a raft of lettings at The Links at South Beach in Blyth, where retailers including COOP, Greggs, Saltrock, Café Ginevra amongst others, have taken advantage of an attractive new scheme in a prominent coastal position.”

Developer Blagdon Estates is currently finalising plans for phase two at South Beach,  which will see further retail pods, a pub and hotel brought forward.

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