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Shoppers fill their boots as new showrooms open in Sunderland

Two retail showrooms have opened on Wearside after @retail swiftly secured new occupiers for a Teesside-based property company.

Wynsors World of Shoes and Easy Bathrooms have expanded their branch networks after signing leases on premises at Roker Avenue in Sunderland. The deals follow an extensive refurbishment, undertaken earlier this year, to reconfigure the units and install new staff facilities.

Sarah Newton, senior estates surveyor at Cable Properties, which has owned the units since 2015, said: “We’re very pleased with the calibre of tenant we’ve been able to attract as a result of @retail’s experience, knowledge and contacts in the North East retail sector.

“We have always believed that the site has great potential and we are very pleased to be able to complete phase one, welcoming well-known brands that have directly enhanced the development.”

In the next phase, it is hoped that a neighbouring vacant plot will accommodate a new retail warehouse, and plans are currently being drawn up to move the project forward.

David Wilson, group property manager at Wynsors World of Shoes, said of the move to Sunderland, which marks an increase in the company’s retail portfolio to 45 stores: “After 12 years at Peel Retail Park in Washington, we were eager to source a unit in nearby Sunderland. This site was put to us by @retail and is a perfect size to help accommodate further recruitment once the store is established.

“We’ve worked closely with Ian Thurlbeck and @retail for many years and their knowledge of the property market, especially in the North East, has proven invaluable to us in expanding our retail offering in the area. We now operate from sites in Hartlepool, Gateshead, Stockton and Longbenton in addition to the new Sunderland store, which already employs a team of seven.”

Ian Thurlbeck added: “In both instances, the lettings were finalised remarkably quickly in order to get these sites occupied and both retailers open for business. The deals really do illustrate that there’s always strong interest in good retail space, in the right location!”

Cable Properties is a family-owned company with a multi-sector portfolio extending from Glasgow to London, with the majority of its holdings located in the North East and Yorkshire.

Sanderson Weatherall acted as joint letting agent in both deals. The refurbishment was delivered by Northpoint Architects and Robertson Simpson.

Retail Property Expert Slams Government Plans For High Street

Government plans to shake up the high street are short-sighted and raise huge concerns.

Under the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, landlords will be compelled to let out retail units that have been vacant for longer than six months. Ministers hope to reduce the number of boarded-up shops while creating new opportunities for local small businesses and community groups as well as helping increase footfall and spending in town centres.

But the move has met with swingeing criticism by Ian Thurlbeck, director at @retail, who says it’s an unrealistic proposal that fails to take into account regional differences and could see hundreds of empty properties auctioned off to unscrupulous tenants.

“This short-sighted scheme fails to address some fundamental issues, placing the burden directly on property owners and feeding off the general sense of mistrust by people in so-called ‘greedy” landlords,” Ian Thurlbeck says.

“It raises many unanswered questions. For instance, what if the tenant who wins the auction is a rogue, pays none of the outgoings and trashes the property – who picks up the bill then? And do the local authorities tasked with running the auctions have the requisite experience and expertise? Will they be willing to take responsibility if things go wrong?

Ian Thurlbeck says that while there are fewer retail operators requiring high street space than previously, the perception of hundreds of North East high streets facing terminal decline is simply untrue.

“There is a popular misconception that our high streets are littered with empty shops, leading to a downward spiral of neglect, decay and blight,” he says. “This is not the case and here in the North East, we see many high streets that are thriving and as busy as anywhere else in the country.

“Moreover, regional vacancy rates are in line with national trends and in our experience, high street retail activity in Newton Aycliffe, Durham City, Bishop Auckland, Peterlee, Chester le Street, Stanley, Consett, Seaham and Crook among other places, where we have lately updated the council with vacancy rates for these town centres, remains robust.

“There are pockets within some of these town centres where vacancy rates exceed the national average, but I would say that this is as much a national issue as it is a North East one.”

Blaming landlords for long term retail vacancies is also unrealistic, Thurlbeck adds, because landlords cannot afford to have their properties lying empty for extended periods – @retail has seen 99% of landlords keen to see their property let.

He says: “The alternative is to suffer the cost of rates, repairs, insurance, security and maintenance. In our experience, most landlords faced with limited demand are prepared to agree short-term, rent-free leases with charities, local organisations and other groups, who can demonstrate they will be reliable and responsible occupiers. This helps to offset these costs while searching for a more sustainable solution.

“Indeed, landlords are often keen to mitigate their outgoings on vacant space and most of @retail’s clients who are faced with a lack of demand at market rents will let to charities and other organisations simply to mitigate rates.”

Crippling business rates are killing any concessionary deals a landlord might be prepared to negotiate, so more flexibility in the system would be helpful in bolstering the retail sector – a move @retail and other property experts back after calling on Government to act, adds Ian Thurlbeck. Such a move would also help to create a more level playing field in the face of an increasing number of local independent retailers and leisure operators in the market, who are able to afford the reduced rents on offer.

Trio of retail lettings unveiled at new coastal hub

Three North East businesses have signed up to be part of a £4.5m retail and leisure development due to launch this Autumn at a coastal town in Northumberland.

Developer Blagdon Estates has agreed leases with Greggs, Shorelocks Hair Salon and fast-food restaurant ChickPizz, who will join anchor tenant Co-op to leave only 3 units available within Phase 1 of the scheme at South Beach in Blyth.

Following the three latest lettings, over 7,400 sq.ft. of ground floor space within the 16,000 sq,ft. development has been snapped up, six months ahead of the scheduled completion date in October.

In recent days, @retail has launched the marketing of the last remaining units with the release of a series of computer-generated images to help illustrate what could be potentially created. The retail and leisure property specialists are hoping to attract more ambitious entrepreneurs from Northumberland and the wider region to complete the tenant line up.

Jonathan Chapman, associate director at @retail, said: “From the outset, we have wanted to bring in local independent businesses who can help us make the scheme something special and with the lettings to Shorelocks and ChickPizz we have made a great start.

“We are excited to see who we can identify now for the last remaining opportunities, such as the 4,400 sq.ft first-floor space which will have fabulous views overlooking the beach, making it an ideal blank canvas for a stunning new restaurant or leisure space.”

In January, Sunderland-based building and civil engineering firm BRIMS Construction, commenced work on behalf of Blagdon Estates at the brownfield site on Links Road.

A spokesperson for Blagdon Estate, added: “These lettings are fantastic news as we work towards creating a vibrant retail hub for local residents and visitors to Blyth.

“We are aware that the construction stage has led to some short-term traffic congestion, however we are working with the building contractor and local authority to minimise disruption, to ensure that the relevant works are completed as quickly as possible.  We greatly appreciate the patience of the local community during this period.”

The three remaining units available to lease at South Beach are Units A, C and G which range from 1,017 to 4,429 sq.ft.

Work Starts On Major Retail and Leisure Scheme In Blyth

Plans for a £4.5m new retail and leisure development in a Northumberland seaside town have moved a step closer with the appointment of a building contractor and the start of construction work.

The first phase is part of ambitious plans by developers Blagdon Estate to transform the existing derelict buildings and land on the Links Road in Blyth into a new 3,750 sq. ft. Co-op convenience store with a further six smaller units ranging from 1,000 sq. ft. to 3,350 sq. ft. available to lease. Plans for the first-floor accommodation, which has views across towards South Beach, will also create more than 4,000 sq. ft. of space to accommodate a new health and fitness gym, studio or restaurant.

The start of work, which will be overseen by North East construction consultants Consult North, appointed by Blagdon Estate to manage the project, comes in the wake of substantial residential development in the South Blyth area, which has seen 600 new homes built over the past 10 years. The project is seen as an important regeneration initiative for the town and follows economic impact studies and research revealing that visitors to Northumberland spent over £1 billion when they explored the county in 2019.

Stuart Hall, director at Kingsmead Developments, development partner with Blagdon Estate, said: “This project will help to transform an important part of Blyth, creating jobs and boost the local economy in the process. The new hub will deliver a wealth of benefits for local residents and traders, as visitor numbers continue to increase, and people spend on local amenities.”

Letting agent for the development @retail has confirmed that the Co-op will be the anchor store for the site with pre-lets already agreed with a further three occupiers. Associate director Jonathan Chapman added: “We are seeing a lot of interest in the units from potential occupiers who are keen to tap into a vibrant local economy and a growing residential population. These include restaurant operators, coffee shops, children’s nurseries and health and fitness operators. We are currently focusing on securing tenants for the remaining space, which includes a 3,350 sq. ft. standalone unit and 4,350 sq. ft. of first floor space.”

Plans for the second phase of development, which includes a further two acres of adjoining land next to the South Beach car park and national cycle route, are already underway with proposals likely to be brought forward during the course of 2022. This will open up further commercial opportunities to make the most of the beachside location including further leisure use, retirement living accommodation or other compatible uses.

17 more sites acquired for flooring brand in 2021

From Glasgow to Plymouth and from Norwich to Kidderminster, @retail has together with our joint agent Zeitlyn Farrell, completed the acquisition of 17 new stores over the last 12 months – totalling 70,000 sq. ft. of retail space – across England and Scotland for Connection Flooring’s dynamic ‘Flooring Superstore’ brand, marking a ‘fantastic’ year of growth and achievement.

@retail has been retained by the Bishop Auckland-based company as its retail property partner since 2017, when the first site was acquired in Birtley, County Durham. Today, the flooring superstore chain continues to grow and currently operates 42 branches, employing over 400 people – Ipswich was the latest store to come on stream, opening in October.

And 2022 looks even brighter with @retail’s involvement in the rollout of another 20 new stores expected to be added to the Flooring Superstore portfolio, providing customers with a range of quality carpets and laminate, vinyl and solid wood floor products.

Ian Thurlbeck, director at @retail, said: “2021 has been a very successful year for us, supporting Flooring Superstore’s ambitions and growth with a number of great new site acquisitions. We very much look forward to further success in 2022 and beyond, as the drive for acquisitions continues to forge ahead with a raft of new sites already under offer.”

Chris Barber, Chief Retail Officer for Flooring Superstore, added: “Ian and the @retail team, who have worked with us for almost five years, really understand our property needs. They have been instrumental in securing some fantastic locations for us this year, allowing us to provide customers with a great retail experience in convenient, well located and modern stores.”

Aidan Farrell of Zeitlyn Farrell also added: “We are keen to hear from other landlords and agents across the UK who might have suitable sites to accommodate Flooring Superstore’s ongoing growth. These should ideally be around 4,000 sq. ft. in size and in close proximity to DIY and home improvement operators on retail parks and busy roadside locations.”

Promotions announced following another busy year in retail

North East property consultancy @retail has announced two senior promotions as it continues to develop and grow its business.

Pete Townsend who joined the company as a graduate in 2016 and Jonathan Chapman who has more than 20 years’ experience as a chartered surveyor dealing with property matters across the North East and who joined @retail in 2020, have been promoted to the position of associate director. Both will continue to provide specialist advice and services to landlords and occupiers alike, across the region and beyond.

Clients include local and national landlords, investment funds, developers and local authorities in addition to operators such as Greggs, Sainsbury’s, Heron Foods, Fat Hippo, The Works and Franks the Flooring Store.

The promotions come as @retail has continued to maintain a strong performance during the pandemic in a sector which has seen considerable transition but also prompted increasing demand from landlords and tenants for insightful property expertise and guidance.

Recognising their value to the business, director Ian Thurlbeck, who co-founded the company with Ian Angus in 2011, said the promotions were well deserved and look to the future as much as the past.

He added: “Our investment in talented people is fundamental to the success of our business of providing top quality advice to the retail and leisure property sectors in the North East. Pete and Jonathan have both established excellent reputations for hard work, delivering results and providing an excellent service to clients and these promotions bear recognition to that, as we look ahead to the recruitment of additional property professionals to support our expanding client base.

Jonathan Chapman added: “The market is adapting to the changes in shopping patterns, working practices and property values brought about by the pandemic. We’re in a very dynamic marketplace where opportunities exist for ambitious and creative operators to secure premises in locations which may have previously been considered out of reach.

“It’s a very exciting time for @retail and the wider property sector and both Pete and I look forward to working closely with the directors to continue to develop the business and to support our clients in helping them achieve their goals.”

Flooring Superstore Expansion Continues

Flooring Superstore have opened in Glasgow this week which marks the 4th store to open in less than a moth and 17th store opened since retail was permitted to resume trade in April 2021!

An amazing achievement from everyone involved!

Helping Greggs to keep the region well fed

Helping the iconic North East brand Greggs to expand and adapt to an evolving marketplace is in many ways the ideal challenge for the team at @retail. And just like their famous pasties, we have certainly risen to the challenge.

Over the past three years, our team has acquired 13 new premises for the legendary food chain, most recently at Prudhoe Retail Park and Shields Road, Pelaw. And we have 15 further prospective Greggs sites currently under offer or in negotiation, as the leading food-on-the-go retailer continues to evolve to meet the needs of the 21st century consumer.

One of the Newcastle-based food retailer’s priorities is to find more potential Drive Thru locations, such as its successful operation at Sandy Lane on the outskirts of the city. As one of the very first of the new format to be trialled, the Sandy Lane Drive Thru has proved to be highly successful following our original acquisition of the site on behalf of Greggs.

At least another three new Drive Thru Greggs stores are set to open in the next 12 months in this region alone as we work exclusively to secure further spaces that meet Greggs requirements. But the brand’s stores are popping up around the country in other non-standard locations too, bringing a taste of Greggs to places as diverse as bus stations and transport interchanges, airports, filling stations, university campuses, roadside kiosks, as well as industrial estates and retail parks.

Our director Ian Thurlbeck explains: “High street locations are well established for Greggs across the North East, so in recent years our focus has turned to finding more ‘non-standard’ acquisitions.

“There’s also a rolling programme of relocations taking place as individual high streets and other retail settings change. Many recent such moves have been to larger sites where more customer seating can be provided.

“With our support, Greggs constantly revaluates its location strategy, striving for each store to always be perfectly positioned. The opening at Pelaw was a particular success story for us as the unit encapsulates Greggs requirements perfectly, after we spent around 15 years working to secure the ideal spot in the suburbs of Gateshead.”

The ideal Greggs spot for a Drive Thru would be for a site of around half an acre to provide a building of at least 1,800 sq. ft which is easily visible from the road and with good nearby traffic flow of around 15,000 vehicles a day and plenty dedicated or shared car parking.

Other examples of new shops we’ve secured for the brand over recent years includes Peel Retail Park in Washington and South Shields Bus and Metro Interchange, both of which opened in 2019, along with Riverside Industrial Estate in Middlesbrough, which along with a relocation in Southwick, Sunderland, opened in 2018.

If you feel you have a premises that might fit the bill, please get in touch. At @retail, we advise 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.

For further information about how we can help you to grow, visit our homepage atretail.co.uk.

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