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A year of growth lies in store for North East retail

Strong demand for prime locations will fuel growth in the North East retail sector in 2024, says Ian Thurlbeck, director of property consultancy @retail, who offers his thoughts and predictions for the coming year.

The sweet taste of success

We look forward to seeing a new phase of growth for Greggs in 2024 as the firm expands its property portfolio on the back of unabated demand for its range of fresh sandwiches, sausage rolls and bakes. 2023 was a record year for Greggs with 220 new site acquisitions, resulting in a net 145 new shop openings.

The Newcastle-based 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. This will fuel new job creation and an acquisitive property investment programme regionally and nationally. @retail continues to act on behalf of Greggs in the North East to identify and secure new premises and most recently acquired a 1,800 sq.ft unit for Greggs at Cleveland Retail Park which opened before Christmas.

A strong sense of community

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.

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.

@retail anticipates further growth in this sector and has most recently been working on projects such as Addison Court Assisted Living Development in Benwell. Your Homes and Newcastle City Council have developed fully fitted space and with the support of @retail, secured a fantastic community organisation to operate the site.

This initiative, which is currently fitting out and will launch later this month, highlights the vital role and importance of community interest groups, who can be more agile in challenging times and in the face of the current cost-of-living crisis.

Newcastle to attract more big names

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!

Who said the high street is dead? We certainly didn’t and very much look forward to North East high streets showing a return to form in the year ahead. Despite a gloomy outlook in other parts of the country, we have seen footfall improve in many places post-Covid thanks to people getting out and about to support their local independent stores and high streets.

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

2024 will be a year when high quality new development is vital to deliver the right type of space that modern day retailers need to support their business strategy. 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 in the coming year to satisfy demand.

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 II which will see further retail pods, a pub and hotel brought forward on the site.

@retail secures letting with Toucan Education

A North East education and training specialist has launched its second site in Gateshead following the latest letting by leading property consultancy, @retail.

Toucan Education, which already has operations in Newcastle and Ryton, has taken on new premises at Blaydon Rugby Club to meet the growing demand for its services, thanks to a 10-year letting which was brokered by @retail.

The rugby club’s former 5,250 sq. ft. gym on Hexham Road in Swalwell has been transformed to enable Toucan to deliver its ‘Alternative Provision’-branded services to more children across the region, who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

These highly specialist services are designed to meet the learning needs of individual children, complimenting existing education provision with support and documents to reassure schools that the correct procedures are in place.

Toucan has made a significant sixfigure investment in the site in the months that have followed the signing of the deal back in June.

The move has seen an extensive property fit-out completed that includes the installation of classrooms, assessment rooms, a bouldering room, special movement rooms – which are currently in high demand – and dedicated spaces for art and home economics among other activities. Newcastle-based shopfitter Barnes Thompson successfully completed the project over a period of 8 weeks.

Toucan has made the investment in additional space to meet demand and accommodate extra learning and development resources. Currently employing 35 staff across all sites, the recruitment of additional teaching and support staff is underway as the business continues to expand and develop its offer.

The new site’s easy access via the A1, good outdoor play space and close proximity to the Derwent Walk Country Park with its mix of woodlands, meadows and river walks, were also appealing, said Philippa Vince, founder and CEO at Toucan Education.

She added: “Every student is an individual and the dynamics of helping them change daily. We have invested in state-of-the-art facilities to meet their needs, while creating new jobs and opportunities for local people as we continue to work and support young people.

“With specific sector expertise and experience, @retail has been instrumental in supporting our ambitions and finding the right location as the next phase of our expansion and vision for the business unfolds.”

Jonathan Chapman, associate director at @retail, said: “Toucan Education is another North East success story and we wish them well in their new premises. The deal reflects our capacity to connect commercial landlords with ambitious business operators who are searching for the right opportunity to accommodate their expansion plans.”

Based at Cobalt Business Park in North Tyneside, @retail advises on all aspects of retail property management and ownership, offering strategic and operational consultancy on matters such as shopping centre leasing, investment, development, and professional services.

@retail dive in to support growth of The Fish Tank

A family run North East business that provides purpose-built swimming pools for families with babies and young children is splashing out with ambitious plans to expand its operations.

Newton Aycliffe-based The Fish Tank has appointed property specialist @retail to acquire new sites across the North East with target locations including Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle, Tees Valley and North Yorkshire.

The company is looking to transform sites into community-focused family friendly swimming pools, kitted out with specially designed changing rooms, coffee shops, interactive indoor play areas and sensory perception spaces and free car parking.

The move is part of a £3.5m investment plan by the company that could create up to 60 regional jobs in leisure and retail over the next three years.

Run by husband-and-wife team Paul and Penny Gordon, The Fish Tank opened for business in 2020 to provide swimming lessons, parties, and open swim sessions for local families with babies and young children. In 2022, they further reinvested to offer bespoke interactive indoor play and sensory rooms at their popular Newton Aycliffe site.

Following the success of the Newton Aycliffe operation, the Gordons’ are currently investing further to build a region-wide business and brand to meet demand.

To assist in their growth, they have appointed @retail to identify and secure sites which can offer 5,600 sq. ft. of floorspace and capable of accommodating a swimming pool within a designated 22m x 24m footprint.

Paul Gordon said The Fish Tank’s success is down to the strong family ethos, quality of its offering and friendly staff who encourage learning through play in a safe, welcoming environment.

He added: “Our toasty warm pool has been designed with babies, toddlers and parents in mind while our sensory room provides a stimulating, safe environment for youngsters up to three years old to enjoy. We also support businesses with our cafe stocking a range of locally sourced products.

“With specific sector experience, @retail are on board to help us develop our operations further. Thanks to their expertise, a number of potential new locations are already under consideration, which is great news as we look to bring our unique product to many more communities in the next few years.”

Ian Thurlbeck, director at @retail, said he is looking at several sites, particularly premises on retail and leisure parks close to new housing developments.

“We’re delighted to be onboard with Paul and Penny, helping to support their vision for the business with our sector specific insight and advice. We are looking at good quality sites right across the North of England that can accommodate their business model while providing room for future growth.”

@retail, which also acquires premises for Fat Hippo, Sainsburys and Greggs among other clients, continues to see a robust level of enquiries from start-ups and smaller niche operators who are looking to acquire versatile, well-located and cost-effective premises.

Coastal celebration marks official opening of new retail hub

A new retail and leisure development that is helping to transform a Northumberland town has officially opened with a VIP celebration.

The team behind The Links at South Beach in Blyth welcomed a 30-strong delivery team back on site on Friday (June 30th) to mark the milestone, along with the fifth Viscount Ridley, Matt Ridley representing Blagdon Estates, which created the £4.5m scheme with partner Kingsmead Developments, and local Conservative MP for Blyth Valley, Ian Levy.

The location for the event was one of the parade’s newest occupiers, Italian coffee house Caffe Ginevra, whose move to Blyth in April represented an expansion from its Prudhoe base.

Other recent additions to The Links include Breeze Lounge, an independent café, bistro and cocktail venue, bakery giant Greggs, local beauty salon Shorelocks and a new Co-op convenience store will also be opening in the coming months.

It’s likely the scheme, which is a major part of Blyth’s ongoing regeneration after the last few years saw an additional 600 homes built, will shortly be full as North East retail property consultancy @retail has received strong interest in two of the three remaining units.

Sunderland-based building and civil engineering firm BRIMS Construction carried out the build of the 16,000 sq. ft, first phase, overseen by North East construction consultancy Consult North.

Ian Levy MP said: “I’m incredibly pleased to be here to mark the opening of such an important development for Blyth – one that has created jobs, shopping and leisure opportunities for the people that live here, as well as tourists coming to enjoy the town’s beautiful coastline.

“The fact that such high-profile brands have committed to the future of this town speaks volumes and I hope to be a regular visitor myself, and to see all the occupiers prosper in the coming years.”

Matt Ridley added: “This is a proud moment for all involved in bringing this first phase of developments at South Beach to fruition. I’d like to thank every individual that has been part of the story of The Links so far and can’t wait to see our next phase of development coming forward.”

UK growth on the menu for NE burger chain

A Newcastle-based independent burger restaurant chain is investing in further venues across the country to support its expansion plans over the next 12 months.

Established in 2010, Fat Hippo, which has opened eight restaurants in the last three years serving its burger-focused menu, has announced that it is in the process of acquiring new city centre sites in Edinburgh, Reading, Bath and Chester in deals brokered by retail property specialist @retail.

The move will support the food retailer’s ambitions to grow its operations this year as it sees burgeoning demand from consumers for its range of beef and chicken burgers, fries and vegan options.

Investment in these sites, will provide an additional 18,000 sq ft of retail floorspace, and will extend the chain’s property portfolio to 23 units by the end of 2023, creating dozens of new full and part-time jobs.

Further new venues in Belfast, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Oxford, Leeds and Sheffield are also set to be secured by @retail, as Fat Hippo looks to cement its national presence.

The chain was started by Mike Philips 13 years ago while he was a student at Northumbria University and currently employs 350 people across the group. He said that despite the recent challenges, notably Covid, @retail has been a key player in securing some of the best restaurant locations.

He added: “We are expanding rapidly and investing in our new sites across the country as a springboard for further growth and brand success. We are delighted by the support provided by @retail, whose strategic property insight and expertise has seen us secure the right property in the right location, on the right terms.”

@retail has been retained to represent Fat Hippo since 2015 and is currently seeking additional sites for the company across the UK.

Ian Angus, director at @retail, said: “Fat Hippo is undoubtedly a great North East business success story as it continues to go from strength to strength. It’s also a reflection of our ability to support ambitious retailers with national expansion plans. Indeed, the importance of effectively and efficiently securing the right premises lies at the heart of successful and rapidly growing businesses like Fat Hippo, who are investing in city centre venues and creating jobs.”

Newcastle Great Park Welcomes 3 New Businesses

A cake and coffee shop, Chinese restaurant and a hair salon are all now open and trading at Newcastle Great Park following a host of commercial lettings brokered by North East property consultancy, @retail.

The deals see the Kwai Feh Chinese Restaurant and Takeaway occupy a 1,464 sq. ft. unit at Branton South while @retail has also let Unit 3b at Middleton South to the cake and gift retailer Vanilla and Dreams. Finally, Unit 3a is now home to hair salon and barbers, U Salon at the Park.

All three tenants will be able to tap into one the largest housing developments in the North East and a rapidly growing business location.

Jonathan Chapman, associate director at @retail, who brokered the deals, said: “With its growing population and expanding local economy, the park is a great place to do business. We have received a lot of interest in the units from occupiers who are keen to take advantage of a great site and we look forward to a prosperous future for all the new occupiers.”

Rebecca Wake, owner of Vanilla and Dreams, is opening her first shop in Newcastle Great Park’s town centre and expects to create several new jobs as her enterprise develops. She said: “Our new shop is just the right size and in the right location to offer a warm welcome to customers looking for tasty treats and takeaway snacks and drinks.

“@retail really understood what we wanted as a start-up and have been extremely supportive in helping us to secure a such as great spot.”

@retail helps Greggs achieve regional growth strategy

A North East consultancy is supporting Greggs in the growth of its retail portfolio with the acquisition of 4 new sites which have launched in recent weeks.

Retail and leisure property specialist @retail has secured the new openings in Durham, Berwick, Washington and Horden, as part of its North East acquisition programme for the food-on-the-go chain.

Greggs has more than 2,200 sites across the UK and an ambition to add 150 new stores each year until 2026, where their next milestone is to have at least 3,000.

In County Durham, Greggs has opened a drive-thru café at Bowburn’s Integra 61 on the back of last year’s acquisition of the site by @retail. It follows on from the 2019 opening of Greggs’ first drive-thru in the North East at Sandy Lane in Newcastle.

This month Greggs has opened a new shop in Berwick, located at Loaning Meadows Retail Park on the northern outskirts of the town, where 12 new jobs have been created. @retail has also successfully secured new stores at Parsons Road in Washington and Cotsford Lane in Horden, near Peterlee, which have both launched this month.

The new acquisitions perfectly illustrate the exciting evolution of Greggs, according to Sarah Hart of @retail. She said: “The 4 new additions to the Greggs portfolio here in the North East perfectly demonstrate the broad offer that is being created for their expanding customer base.

“With our support, Greggs is constantly reevaluating its location strategy, striving for each store to always be perfectly positioned and provide the experience that customers are looking for.

“We are actively looking for new stores on behalf of Greggs in retail parks, roadside locations, transport hubs and new drive-thru sites, to complement the more traditional high street positions.”

The drive-thru concept is a particular focus area for Greggs which has been accelerated by the pandemic. The brand has a portfolio of 15 drive-thrus across the UK and is hungry for many more. It is targeting sites of 1,800-2,000 sq ft for drive-thru locations, complete with EV chargers.

Ben Ferguson, regional property manager at Greggs said: “When a customer is choosing where to shop for food-on-the-go, we know that convenience is paramount. We already have a strong presence in traditional towns and suburban locations, so we continue to focus on increasing our presence in competitive locations where people travel, work and access by car. Working with @retail supports us in our acquisition of these important sites.”

Over the past three years, @retail has acquired 15 new premises for Greggs and is currently working on a further 20 prospective sites which are currently under offer.

Performing arts school sings the praises of new Morpeth premises

The Cowell Academy of Stage and Television (CAST.), which provides dance, gymnastics, singing and acting training for young people, has taken 2,238 sq. ft. of first floor space above the Sainsbury’s convenience store on Shields Road in Morpeth, as part of a 5-year deal brokered by retail property specialists @retail.

The move provides much needed permanent space for founder and principal Sarah Cowell’s operations as she looks to develop her team of eight coaches and assistants and bring in a new office manager. This comes in the face of strong demand from students keen to learn the fundamentals of performing arts while boosting their talent and confidence.

Jonathan Chapman, associate at @retail, said: “Morpeth and other popular market towns across the region continue to receive considerable interest from entrepreneurial businesses and niche operators on the look-out for premises that can accommodate future expansion in operations. It’s all part of a wider, shifting regional retail landscape where businesses ambition like CAST. are helping to reshape town centre retail.”

After originally opening for business at Storey Park Community Centre in 2019 and then running her classes from various venues in Morpeth, Sarah has seen CAST. take off in the last three years as demand for her courses has soared.

She currently has more than 350 youngsters aged 18 months to 18 years on her books, who participate in dozens of weekly classes.

However, she fully expects student numbers to increase further in the next 12 months as she continues to bring in industry professionals to the school to ensure the students receive the best possible tuition.

Sarah Cowell, who was attracted to the Shields Road site because of its good location, onsite car parking and flexible workspace, has plans to add additional classes, expanding her offer to include adult teaching while hiring out the studios to professional companies for rehearsal.

She said: “I’m thrilled with our new premises, and with its proximity to local transport links, the town centre and large flexible workspace, it provides the perfect springboard to launch a new chapter of success for CAST. and our students. @retail understood what we wanted to allow us to grow the business – they were extremely supportive in helping us to secure the right property in the right place at the right price.”

@retail continues to see a robust level of enquiries from start-ups and smaller niche operators who are looking for versatile, well located and cost-effective workspace.

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