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Norwich remains a “thriving” retail centre amid decline of British high streets

PUBLISHED: 09:56 28 September 2017 | UPDATED: 10:03 28 September 2017

Gentleman's Walk in Norwich bustling with shoppers. Picture: Archant.

Gentleman's Walk in Norwich bustling with shoppers. Picture: Archant.

Competition has rarely been fiercer in retail, with challenges facing businesses on all sides. 
But new research suggests Norwich is faring well.

With online shopping and out-of-town developments sounding the death knell for many British high streets, research shows the streets of Norfolk’s biggest retail centre are staving off these competitors.

In Norwich, prospering independent shops rub shoulders with some of the country’s biggest chains, while the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) has laid out plans to bring in more shoppers – and shops – over the next five years.

The fine city was ranked 13th in Javelin Group’s Venuescore 2017, which evaluates shopping destinations around the UK by their provision of multiple retailers including department stores, supermarkets and fashion chains. And the current vacancy rate for retail units in the city centre is 4.9%, according to local authority figures.

Stefan Gurney, managing director at Norwich BID, said the city presented an attractive offering to expanding companies, adding that there was “value in drawing in good brands”.

“When businesses look to gain a national presence, Norwich is generally in the first tranche of openings they look to do. We work alongside partners to make sure we maintain that position,” he said.

“We are keen to attract some of the higher-end national boutique stores that we have the demographic to support but are not presently in the city.”

Adrian Fennell, retail partner at Roche in Norwich, said the low level of retail vacancies demonstrated “strong demand” for Norwich.

“Retailers definitely have the opinion that Norwich is a thriving city centre so if you are looking to expand, it is one of the core cities in the country where you will look to take representation.”

He added the city had a “strong mix of retailers” and benefited from little nearby competition.

According to Javelin Group’s Venuescore, shopping centres constitute around 40% of Norwich’s retail offering.

At Castle Mall, general manager Robert Bradley this summer laid out plans to bring in more shoppers by linking up with community groups and music festivals to offer entertainment, while it is set to open its new restaurant quarter, The Terrace, in the coming months.

However, a report from property agent Knight Frank shows shopping centres nationally have suffered continual decreases in footfall since 2013.

General manager at intu Chapelfield Paul McCarthy said it had maintained a “steady level” of footfall over the past few years.

“In fact this year’s figures to date are showing a healthy increase from 2016,” he said.

“Our property team is in constant dialogue with potential new tenants to deliver new brands.

“Norwich is the most popular retail destination in our region and continues to attract a wide range of shoppers and intu Chapelfield is a very important part of the city’s appeal.”

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