Shopping boom boosts city

The opening of the £250m Chapelfield complex has propelled Norwich into the country's top five places to shop and cemented the city's status as the region's retailing capital.

The opening of the £250m Chapelfield complex has propelled Norwich into the country's top five places to shop and cemented the city's status as the region's retailing capital.

A year after it opened, new figures reveal it is attracting shoppers from as far afield as Colchester and Bedford - turning Norwich into a major commercial rival to London's Oxford Street and the Bluewater shopping centre in Essex.

Chapelfield's management also revealed yesterday that it has hit its target of attracting 10m shoppers in its first year. The flagship House of Fraser store reported that one in five of its account holders regularly travel over 80 miles to visit the city.

And Chapelfield's success appears to be spreading to other retailers around the city. Both John Lewis and the Castle Mall have reported increases in the volume of shoppers over the last year.

“This is not just about Chapelfield. The outlets we offer have combined with the range of independent shops such as Jarrold and the Norwich Lanes and the historical significance of Norwich to create a very attractive city centre,” Chapelfield's general manager Steve Bunce said.

“We have proved Norwich can more than compete with centres like Bluewater and with other cities in the area such as Cambridge.”

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Sophie Hallett of Castle Mall said: “For the first six months of the year we have recorded increased footfall in the Mall. But that is what Chapelfield was supposed to do - attract more shoppers to the city.”

Research by retail consulting firm Javelin published yesterday ranked Norwich as the fifth best shopping city in Britain - behind Glasgow, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester but ahead of Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and even Oxford Street.

The new figures come against the background of worries in other parts of the country about high street retail trade and after some observers questioned whether Chapelfield would mean Norwich having too many shops.

Rob Barton, manager of House of Fraser, said: “Norwich is a real alternative to central London because people can come here and make a day of it and have a much more pleasant shopping experience.”

Mr Bunce is confident that Chapelfield has had a positive impact on the city a year on from its opening last September.

He said: “We have improved our car-parking, keeping prices and queuing down. We have attracted some retailers to the city who were not represented in Norwich before. Some 70pc of our retailers are new to Norwich and we have improved the area considerably.

“We have attracted more people to this end of town and the clean-up of this area of Norwich has even revealed parts of the city walls which some people had never noticed before.”

There are 80 shops in Chapelfield along with 17 restaurants or cafes - and managers hope to be making use of all seven of their empty units by their first birthday, in September, as four are already under offer.

Newcomers to Norwich such as House of Fraser, Borders bookstore and quirky clothing store Joy have attributed their roaring success to their location within the Chapelfield centre - and have also found their Norwich branch to be among their most successful.

Area manager of Joy, Miles Lanham, said: “Chapelfield is perfect for us because of its late opening hours. Our customers work and want to shop in the evenings. They want retails therapy after work or to pick up a new dress and a birthday present on her way to the party.

“It is our largest store and we are finding Norwich customers have really taken it to their hearts. Some visit once a week.”

Borders Sales manager Nick Mowitt said the Chapelfield approach was good for business: “We have held several events with Wagamamas restaurant next door, promoting their cookery books and bringing in more customers on an evening out.

“We have done extremely well in Norwich.”