February 1 2015 Latest news:
Ben Woods, Business writer
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Norwich’s retail economy has been given a fresh shot in the arm with the announcement that sporting giant Nike is to open a shop in the city as the number of empty shops continues to fall.
Norwich’s location has always been an attraction to big name brands that want to expand, writes Ben Woods. Its isolation means it is not close to other major shopping destinations that could compete for sales, while its catchment area spans across Norfolk, north Suffolk and east Cambridgeshire. It gives retailers the scope to have a big impact with a single store.
Therefore, it should come as little surprise to many that Nike is opening in Norwich – but should it be welcomed?
Adrian Fennell, partner responsible for retail and leisure at Norwich-based Roche chartered surveyors, is concerned that – while it may bring new jobs– it could harm other retailers.
“The worry is that it may have a negative impact on the city centre. We want the city centre to be vibrant and lively. But part of this evolution comes from pumping in new brands over a period of time, as we have seen with Hollister and Superdry.
“It is one thing when a retailer takes a site on the periphery of Norwich but already has a presence in the city centre. But it is another thing altogether when retailers are just going to the periphery instead.”
Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich business improvement district, said the news that Nike was launching a factory store at the Riverside Retail Park on Thursday was a sign that the city’s diverse offering had the power to entice the biggest brands.
But there are concerns that the brand’s decision to open on the peripheries of Norwich could damage city-centre shops which stock Nike’s footwear and clothes.
It comes as two schemes were given the green light on the outskirts of Norwich last week, with Next Home and Garden set to create more than 150 jobs at the Longwater Retail Park Costessey, while a further 360 jobs are to be created with the building of a new supermarket, restaurant and petrol station in Taverham.
Nike refused to comment on the opening, although it is currently advertising for new staff in Norwich.
Mr Gurney said: “Norwich has a growing market when it comes to retail. It is a top-10 retail destination and what we provide is different compared to the generic offering of most cities. The city has this mixture of independent retailers, which retailers like, and our vacancy rates are dropping, with another five sites filled in Norwich in recent weeks.
“Nike has probably been identifying sites in the city where they would like to be, but a lot of the large retail spaces have already been acquired. They have probably identified the Riverside Retail Park as having a good footfall, while still being close to the city centre.”
Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “This is not only good news in terms of providing local job opportunities but is also a vote of confidence in the area as an economically buoyant location in which businesses can thrive.”
Around 2,000 Tesco workers discovered their jobs were at risk after the supermarket giant disclosed the locations of 43 store closures including two in Essex - a Homeplus store at Chelmsford and a smaller store in Heybridge.