LAND Securities opened the £70 million Buchanan Quarter in Glasgow yesterday, its second major shopping development in two days and in defiance of on-going difficulties in the retail sector.
On Thursday it launched Trinity Leeds, a one million sq ft scheme costing £350m that will be the biggest to open in the UK this year. The two developments represent some 1.2 miles of shop frontage.
Robert Noel, chief executive of Land Securities, said both projects proved that demand remained strong among consumers and retailers for the right kind of shopping environment. “There are empty units in Glasgow, but they are not the right kind of space,” he said.
None, for example, could realistically be overhauled to accommodate fast-fashion powerhouse Forever 21, whose 60,000sq ft within the new development is the largest-ever letting on Buchanan Street. Next door neighbour Paperchase has taken roughly 18,000sq ft after a 15-year search for the ideal location for a stand-alone Glasgow shop.
Like Forever 21, sports brand Vans has also opened its first Scottish store in Buchanan Quarter. Other retailers along the street-side development include Evans Cycles, Gap, Office, Skechers and Watches of Switzerland.
As a crowd of about a hundred queued in the snow before Forever 21 opened its doors, Noel said the high street was not dying, but is in the grip of a dramatic transformation.
“What everyone has to understand is the UK has a population of 60 million people, and they all need to eat and they all need to buy clothes,” he said. “That is not going to change.”
What is changing is consumers’ behaviour and expectations. As shopping becomes more of an “outing”, people increasingly want to eat, socialise and be entertained along with buying their goods.
Lester Hampson, head of retail development for Land Securities, said the current “ideal” mix within a scheme appeared to be a three-to-one ratio of retail to restaurants, bars and entertainment venues such as cinemas.
“But retail is going through the greatest change seen since the industrial revolution, so we are still working to identify what that ideal mix is,” he added.
Land Securities – the UK’s biggest landlord with 29 million sq ft of retail and office space – is seeking planning permission to expand Buchanan Galleries, the 600,000sq ft mall it jointly owns with Henderson Global Investors. A decision on the 65,000sq ft extension is expected next month.
The Buchanan Quarter opening came as reports emerged that another city-centre Glasgow mall, the St Enoch Centre, is being put up for sale with a price tag of about £180m.
Opened in 1989, St Enoch occupies the site of a former rail terminus.
Canadian owners Ivanhoe Cambridge bought the centre in February 2005, and have since spent more than £100m on its extension and refurbishment.