What next for some of the city's most prominent empty shops?

Some of Norwich's most prominent empty units - but for how much longer?

Some of Norwich's most prominent empty units - but for how much longer? - Credit: Archant

One of the city's most prominent vacant shops has moved a step closer to occupancy with the news that the former Topshop site has found a buyer. 

The collapse of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group has seen the closure of Topshop

The collapse of Sir Philip Green's Arcadia Group has seen the closure of Topshop, Topman and other high street names including Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins. - Credit: Simon Parkin

But a short trundle around the city will reveal that the former fashion retailer's home is far from the only vacant unit in Norwich.

So what does the future have in store for some of the city's other most prominent voids, as Norwich once against strives to be full?

Debenhams: Orford Place

Debenhams in Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The building in Norwich when it was Debenhams. - Credit: Archant

The longstanding department store closed its doors for the final time in May, having taken occupancy in the city in the 1960s.


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The six-storey building was one of the largest retail spaces in the city, with 111,000sq/ft over its six floors and in July a single buyer with "positive plans" for the site agreed to its purchase.

However, it remains to be seen what these plans are and whether the sale is now complete.

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Game: Back of the Inns

The closure of Game has left a prominent unit empty at the entrance to Castle Quarter. 

The closure of Game has left a prominent unit empty at the entrance to Castle Quarter. - Credit: Simon Parkin

Video game retailer Game closed its store in the Back of the Inns during lockdown.

The store had shrunk its retail space in favour of an interactive gaming facility and function room.

But the shop is now gutted and in the process of being leased to a "well-known national retailer" by chartered surveyors Francis Darrah.

Mr Darrah said: "The ex-Game unit remains under offer and we anticipate that the lease to the new tenant will be signed very soon."

British Home Stores: St Stephens Street

The old Primark store on St Stephens St

The old BHS store - Credit: Archant

The former BHS in St Stephens Street closed in 2016 following the collapse of the one-time high street giant.

From 2017 onwards it provided a temporary home to Primark while it renovated its site in Gentleman's Walk, but since the revamped store launched it has been empty.

Adrian Fennell of Roche, the firm marketing the property said: "We are talking to one or two people about the property and it is still available to lot."

Other notable movements:

Elsewhere in the city, Costa Coffee will soon be opening a store in the former Jack Wills on the corner of London Street. The former Cath Kidston store on Castle Street is currently under offer, while the £3.375m buyers of the Royal Arcade have appointed new management.

What do the experts say?

Prof Joshua Bamfield, director at the centre of retail research. Pic: Archant

Prof Joshua Bamfield, director at the centre of retail research. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

Joshua Bamfield, of the Centre for Retail Research said that while the pandemic had brought change to the high street, he still thought Norwich had something to offer.

He said: "You would think the best thing for retailers is not to have any of their competition nearby, but in reality is the complete opposite - it's the first thing you want as it brings people out.

"Norwich has a lot going for it - people think city centres are going downhill but it does still has a lot going for it."

Chartered surveyor Francis Darrah added: "We continue to receive interest in vacant properties from both existing occupiers already in Norwich and looking either to improve their trading location or acquire larger or additional space in the city, and from occupiers without an existing presence in Norwich, seeking to gain representation in what is recognised as one of the country’s most attractive city’s in which to trade. We are confident that this will lead to new lettings of currently vacant properties over the coming weeks and months."

Tim Ashe, of GCW, which is responsible for the sales of Topshop and Debenhams, said Norwich's catchment area made it less vulnerable to major closures than towns and cities in more densely populated counties.

He said: "Major retailers that maybe once had 200 or 300 branches nationwide are wanting to cut that down to say 100-or so, but to these companies Norwich is an attractive place to be.

"Norwich is in a strange part of the world where you're about an hour or so away from the nearest big city, whereas if you look at Yorkshire you have big cities like York and Leeds close to one another, so they're more likely to lose one of them.

"In terms of retail, Norwich is quite an attractive place to be."

And the vacant units appear not to be putting off shoppers. 

According to the latest research from thinktank Centre for Cities, the average spend in the city is actually up 22 percentage points on where it was pre-lockdown.  

This, combined with the level of footfall in the city, has lead to it being rated at an index of 87 when compared to activity before Covid.  

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