City bucks shopping trend

Liverpool One Paradise Street

The number of vacant shops in Liverpool city centre fell in 2012 – bucking the national trend.

That is the finding of the annual review of the city’s main retail area, which found the vacancy rate in the 841 units surveyed fell from 13.5 percent to 12.7 percent compared to 2011. This compares to a rise nationally.

Although 32 units became vacant as businesses closed, another 41 were filled with newcomers.

Some 54 percent of the arrivals were new to the city, while 14 percent had previously not had a unit in the north west.

And at Liverpool ONE – which had 26 million visits in 2012 – 99 percent of the 160 shops are occupied.

Highlights include:

•           New businesses on Lord Street
•           11 new retailers  at St John’s Shopping Centre
•           The upper floor of Cavern Walks being fully occupied for the first time in several years

Mayor Joe Anderson said: “The city centre is the driver for Liverpool’s economy and it is pleasing that it continues to thrive despite the tough economic conditions.

“Many thousands of people are employed in the shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. Their livelihoods depend on a successful Liverpool city centre.

“It is vital that we do all we can to attract further investment and organise events which give people a reason to visit Liverpool.”

New developments recently completed, or due to complete this year, include:

•           The new Adagio Apart Hotel in the former Lewis’s building
•           Forever 21 opening a new £20 million store on Church Street
•           Marks and Spencer investing £5 million
•           A £5 million extension to River Island

Plans are also in the pipeline to give St John’s Shopping Centre a makeover.

Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, Cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is a reassuring annual health check of our city centre and shows that we are continuing to make good progress in attracting investment and bringing in new businesses.

“Our city centre is the engine of Liverpool’s economy and I am pleased we are continuing to motor ahead, despite tough times.”

Max Steinberg, Chief Executive of Liverpool Vision said: “The importance of a thriving retail area to economic growth is recognised in the City Centre Strategic Investment Framework 2012.

“The area is identified as one of six transformational action areas, with a focus on the potential for further investment and improvement in the Williamson Square area. The strength of our retail sector in challenging times bodes well for the future.”

Ged Gibbons, Chief Operating Officer for City Central BID, which represents more than 630 businesses in the retail heart of city centre, said: ”It has taken a decade of sheer hard work but Liverpool city centre is now one of the most dynamic in the UK.

“It speaks volumes that the retail sector is continuing to invest during a recession to a level that few cities in the UK and Europe can match.

“Liverpool’s appeal to both investors and visitors alike still has huge potential as a job creator and we must continue to nurture and develop that over the next 10 years.”

Both St John’s Shopping Centre and Liverpool ONE both saw an increase in visitors, and there was a 10.3 percent rise in bus passengers, and car park use was up 1.7 percent.

Overall footfall fell 6.51 percent compared to 2011, in line with comparable areas and due to a combination of wet weather, the economic climate and the temporary closure of Liverpool Central station for refurbishment.