Owners of struggling Royal Arcade offering free rent prize
PUBLISHED: 17:23 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:06 20 September 2019
Owners of Norwich's half-empty Royal Arcade are desperately trying to fill shop units by inviting businesses to win retail space in a competition.
Meanwhile, the few remaining tenants - including Steve Scott, managing director of toyshop Langleys - are in talks with landlords Legal & General over whether they too can enjoy a slash in rent or a free period.
Although taking a hit on renting units worth £15,000-£150,000 a year may encourage new tenants, it's a bitter pill to swallow for the remaining firms who continue to fork out on rent together with rates and a service charge.
Mr Scott, who recently opened a new toy store in Chapelfield said he was unaware of the freebies but was meeting with Legal & General next week and "hoping for a development".
The 'Let's Grow' competition launched by Legal & General, posted on the Royal Arcade website and twitter account, asks: "Are you a small business owner, entrepreneur or just have a great idea? Fancy opening in the Royal Arcade, for free?"
People are invited to enter online with retail space "free of charge for an agreed period of time" starting in January.
Norwich city councillor Paul Kendrick, cabinet member for resources who was unaware of the move, said: "It's possibly a good idea but by no reason a sure-fire winner. I can see why the existing tenants are not particularly happy."
It's not unusual for landlords to offer free tenancies as a sweetener, usually for the first month, but in a competition format is less common. However, the firm Intu, which owns Chapelfield in Norwich, recently did this in a bid to fill space in its shopping complex in Derby.
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Andrew Haigh, divisional partner at property firm Brown & Co, with a large commercial department, said free tenancies were being offered for a limited time in the arcade. He said one tenant was hopefully about to fill one of the arcade units as a result.
"The Victorian Royal Arcade is very attractive and offers small units for independent retailers which you don't often get in centre of big cities. I expect it to recover."
A spokesman from Legal & General said: "Legal & General's 'Grow' initiative represents its latest step to respond to the evolution of the retail market and work in partnership with local retailers to deliver a more compelling shopping experience.
"The initiative was successfully rolled out last month at The Grafton shopping centre in Cambridge. We are looking forward to seeing the ideas."