A week on the high street

23rd June

June 23, 2021

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Russian discount store chain Mere is to open four sites in the UK this year, with plans for over 300 stores within the next eight to ten years. The retailer plans to undercut Lidl and Aldi by 20 to 30 per cent. Suppliers are to deliver directly to stores and only pay for stock that is sold. The first store is set to open in Preston in mid-July, with sites in Castleford, Caldicot and Mold. For future sites, Mere plans to open in any part of the country that meets its requirements, including accessibility from major roads.

Edinburgh’s St James Quarter has added a host of fashion, jewellery and cosmetics brands to its offering as it plans to open its first phase this month. Retailers such as The Kooples and Nordic Outdoor will join the likes of Kate Spade, Kurt Geiger and Russell and Bromley in the mixed-use city centre development. Among the other stores is Scottish watchmaker Kartel. Owner Bobby Morrison said: “As a Scottish brand Kartel is proud to be part of the St James Quarter opening in Edinburgh. Experiential retail is at the heart of our offering, bringing a new level of customer interaction within our store. The quality of retailers in the new development will make the St James Quarter a landmark destination and we look forward to welcoming our existing and new customers alike.” Alongside the retailers, the development also includes an Everyman cinema, a W Edinburgh hotel and 152 residential apartments.

Debenhams may return to the high street under new owner Boohoo as it pursues deals with major beauty brands. Some brands such as Benefit and Ralph Lauren continue to supply to Debenhams’ online store, but boss John Lyttle said that other brands such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent have refused to supply products unless the department store had a physical presence. Lyttle told The Times that Boohoo was considering “one store and one store only”, a smaller site outside of London.

Sports Direct’s flagship store in Oxford Circus has undergone a £10m revamp. The 50,000sq ft unit now includes 100 digital screens, selfie mirrors and PS5 consoles, with a giant 3D hologram to showcase new products at the main entrance. Specialist zones for different sports will include a sports bra fitting service and a running analysis service offered by Japanese sportswear brand Asics. The store’s layout will have a more inclusive feel, with menswear and womenswear displayed side-by-side, and mannequins representing different body types and physical disabilities. Sports Direct head of elevation Michael Murray said: “[Our third-party brand partners] absolutely love the elevation strategy and love that we are making this huge statement on Oxford Street. It gives them confidence in our commitment and our determination to achieve what we have set out to achieve: to be the number one sporting goods retailer across Europe.”

Department store chain Selfridges has launched garden centres at its stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham in a bid to capitalise on the increased popularity of gardening driven by the pandemic. Ranges include own-label compost and gardening merchandise, and an exclusive themed clothing range by Prada. Centres will feature a ‘potting shed’ where customers can get advice from experts, take part in workshops and attend events. Selfridges creative director Hannah Emslie said: “A garden centre is evocative but familiar, and has provided rich inspiration for our teams, literally and creatively. We know our customers are more interested in gardening and greening than they ever have been. And so we are playing with the idea by bringing the essentials of a typical garden centre to our stores.”



A new leisure complex is to open on the site of a former Debenhams store in Wandsworth this summer. Gravity Southside will include an electric go-kart track, arcade, digital darts and bowling. A Japanese bar and noodle kitchen, a sports bar and a cocktail bar will complete the 3-floor, 100,000sq ft complex. Founder Michael Harrison said: “This project takes active entertainment to the next level with loads of immersive experiences and UK firsts. By day it's the perfect half-day experience for the family or a great place to host a party. By night we will dim the lights, speed up the E-karts, ramp up the music with live performances and let the adults take over."

Coffee shop and juice bar brand Joe & the Juice has opened its first site outside of London this week. The new Brighton store on North Street joins the Danish chain’s estate of over 50 London stores and international sites in over 16 countries. Founder Kaspar Basse said: “Brighton is such a vibrant city with a customer base already ahead of the curve in terms of a healthy lifestyle and interest in juicing, vegan and vegetarian foods. North Street is one of the busiest shopping areas of the city and will provide us with the footfall we need to launch this important flagship store.”

According to new ONS data, food retail sales fell in favour of hospitality. The drop in sales for the first time since January has been attributed to the reopening of hospitality, with consumers opting to dine out at pubs and restaurants and therefore spend less on groceries. The decline came after an almost 10% jump in April following the reopening of non-essential retail in most parts of the UK.


Oxford Circus will be transformed to include two pedestrian piazzas. Works beginning later in the year will shut two areas at either end of the Circus to buses and taxis, and traffic along Regent Street will be calmed using measures such as extended green phases at pedestrian crossings. The scheme, by Westminster City Council and The Crown Estate, aims to support local business affected by the pandemic and re-instil confidence in the West End as it welcomes shoppers back. Westminster City Council Leader Rachel Robathan said: “We hope the creation of these pedestrian-only piazzas at Oxford Circus, surrounded by newly-planted trees and large seating areas, will instil much-needed confidence in the West End and support local businesses severely affected by the pandemic.”

The government has extended the commercial rent moratorium until March 2022, in light of the recent decision to postpone the end of coronavirus restrictions by four weeks. The moratorium was due to end on the 30th of June, which would have allowed commercial landlords to evict tenants for failing to pay rent. Many hospitality and leisure businesses are still shut. British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson welcomed the extension. She said: “The last 15 months have seen extended periods of forced closure for retailers, preventing many from making the turnover needed to cover rents. Retailers need time to trade their way out of debt; this announcement does exactly that. We’re also pleased to see the Government adopt our proposal for binding arbitration where agreements between parties cannot be reached.”


Openings and closures

New York-style brasserie Isaac’s is to open at The Grand Hotel Birmingham this week; Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant Nakanojo will open on Chelsea’s King’s Road; Chef Dom Robinson will reopen his Michelin-starred pub The Blackbird as fine-dining restaurant Renaissant; The owners of Brawn in London’s Bethnal Green have partnered with Margate seafood restaurant Sargasso to reopen the venue next month; Sushi restaurant SUMI has opened in London’s Westbourne Grove; Italian restaurant Bernardi’s has relaunched as Italian Greyhound in Marylebone.


In other news

Property investment firm LabTech has announced proposals for an observation wheel in Camden. The wheel would be located in Camden Market's West Yard and include glass pods each themed around a musical artist or genre that represents Camden's musical heritage. Maggie Milosavljevic, commercial director at LabTech, said: “Our proposed Observation Wheel would further cement LabTech’s pledge to invest in the area and support local businesses, while enhancing Camden’s position as a leading destination for culture in London."

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