New tenant for Norwich’s former BHS shop is revealed

PUBLISHED: 12:06 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:46 05 December 2017

The former BHS in St Stephen's Street, Norwich, has been empty since August 2016. Picture: ANTONY KELLY.

The former BHS in St Stephen's Street, Norwich, has been empty since August 2016. Picture: ANTONY KELLY.

Archant Norfolk 2016

The long-running saga over the future of the former BHS store in Norwich is at an end, after a deal was struck with a new retailer.

Primark will move into the St Stephens Street premises for the next 18 months while it extends its existing store in Gentleman’s Walk.

The cut-price fashion retailer is expected to open in its temporary home early next year, with the hope of making the move back to its newly-extended premises in time for summer 2019.

And the agent for the building says that discussions are already taking place over a longer-term arrangement with major retailers beyond 2019, with the hope that Primark’s improvements to the building and a longer lead-in time will entice a big name.

The building has been empty since August 2016 when BHS closed the last of its stores, putting 11,000 staff out of a job, though the sight of maintenance workers inside the building in recent weeks had sparked rumours that a deal was close.

Primark in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPrimark in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Adrian Fennell, retail partner at Roche Chartered Surveyors, who worked on the deal, said: “From our point of view it’s great news as it gets the store occupied by a very strong retailer which will be a boost to St Stephens Street, and it also gets a not insignificant amount of money spent on the mechanicals and electricals in the building.

He added: “It’s good for the whole city to have the largest vacant unit occupied again and it also gives Primark the opportunity to relocate into a substantial store during the redevelopment of their existing one rather than working in a difficult trading environment.”

A temporary relocation was a “complex” process but would give Primark valuable continuity of trade, he added.

Primark’s arrival is also expected to give a boost to other shops in the street by increasing footfall, and comes on the back of two lettings in the former Poundland store at the southern end of the street, to extended Shoezone and catering equipment supplier Nisbets.

The temporary agreement with Primark – which includes a fixed term and break points thereafter – will give landlords Aviva breathing space to find a longer-term occupant for the 45,000 sq ft premises.

“We are already in discussions,” said Mr Fennell. “The multiple retailers will have already agreed their 2018 store openings, and they will now be looking to 2019 and beyond and that’s where these premises will come into their thoughts.”

Earlier this year, another major retailer was close to agreeing a long-term lease for the building but the deal fell through.

A spokesman for Primark confirmed that its extended Gentleman’s Walk store, which will be almost double its current size, was scheduled to open in summer 2019.

“While these works are carried out, we will temporarily relocate our store and our employees to another premises in nearby St Stephens Street,” he added.

What do you think of Primark’s move? Leave your comments below.

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