Successful year for Shrewsbury’s shopping centres despite challenging times for retail
In January this year Shropshire Council completed the purchase of Shrewsbury’s three main shopping centres from UK Commercial Property Trust Limited.
The primary objective for the purchase is to support the economic growth and future vitality of Shrewsbury town centre, by supporting the development of Shrewsbury as a ‘destination’, helping provide an improved and attractive retail and leisure offer, and securing employment for Shropshire residents. By securing a strong mix of future uses, it will also generate a sustainable year-on-year income stream for the council.
Since taking ownership of the centres the council and their team of agents and management advisors have been able to retain and attract tenants and both numbers of occupied units and footfall are holding up well, with footfall six per cent higher than in 2016. Earlier this year Wilko opened a new store in the Pride Hill Centre. In the Darwin Centre, The Disney Store opened at the end of October 2018; national retailer Menkind have returned, Calendar Club have opened a Christmas store, and Chikpe has also opened.
Local artist Megan Hawkins has opened in the Pride Hill Centre, along with PURE – and JD Sports and Planet Doughnut both opened in the Darwin Centre this month (December).
These new tenants mean that vacancy rates in the Pride Hill and Darwin centres are at their lowest levels since 2012. The vacancy level in the Darwin Centre is 10 per cent (five units) and in the Pride Hill Centre it’s eight per cent (three units).
Councillor Steve Charmley, deputy leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“It’s been widely reported that these are challenging times for the retail sector, and this is undoubted from the picture we are seeing nationally as well as locally. Consumers’ habits and behaviours are fundamentally changing but this only emphasises the importance of the need for town centres to adapt and to become strong destinations in their own right, based on more than retail alone. Shrewsbury and many of Shropshire’s other market towns are well placed given their strong heritage and visitor offer already.
“When the council purchased the centres, we made it clear that this was not a short-term investment. Over the past year we’ve been carefully thinking through our next steps in terms of the wider development opportunities, and how these align with the vision for the town as articulated within the recently published Shrewsbury Big Town Plan.
“We’ve already introduced some temporary uses into the centres with initiatives like the ‘pop in shop’ and community arts and events. The future permanent uses of the centres must respond to offer a mix of uses as well as continue to ensure retailers are successful and want to trade in Shrewsbury. A future mixed use development of Riverside alongside strengthening the positioning of Darwin and Pride Hill centres with retail and complementary activities will help ensure the future success of the town centre and deliver on those aspirations of the Big Town Plan.”
The next steps for the centres were considered by the Shropshire Council’s Cabinet on 12 December. Councillors agreed that an initial budget of £500,000 be approved to secure the appropriate resources and expertise to prepare a Strategic Development Framework and Masterplan to support the delivery of the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan (to include the redevelopment of Riverside), along with the appointment of two dedicated posts to support this implementation.
For more information about Shrewsbury’s shopping centre, go to www.shrewsbury-shopping.co.uk