Published: 16 June, 2008
When the wraps finally came off Liverpool One a fortnight ago it was immediately clear that Grosvenor and its development team have created an architectural triumph. The scheme has a real sense of place and has created some very attractive spaces in the middle of a busy city centre.
'Permeability' is one of the town planning fraternity's current buzzwords, and Liverpool One certainly ticks that box, providing new links between Liverpool's core and the waterfront.
But in the end it's fundamentally a shopping centre so what of the retail? The John Lewis and Debenhams anchors are everything one would expect from a department store: big, dominant emporiums with a massive range. That in itself is refreshing at a time when many department stores seem slightly half-hearted.
And once again the letting agents and in-house leasing team have managed to get phase one over the 90-per-cent hurdle - at what price nobody is saying. However there's another 80 shops to open in September and they are going to have to pedal pretty hard over the traditionally quiet summer period if the second phase is to achieve similar success.
One thing that's become apparent in all this Spring's centre openings is the wide discrepancy between the number of stores let and the number of stores open on launch day. Inevitably some retailers sign late and can't physically get a store fitted out, stocked and staffed in time. But there are other cases where retailers have had two years' notice of the opening date and still manage to miss the deadline.
In the current market landlords are hardly in a position to crack the whip but retailers must realise that today they stand together or fall together: consumers have high expectations of new shopping centres and a run of dead frontage is inevitably disappointing. Some might choose not to come back.
Perhaps it's a function of the current incentive-led leasing climate. Retailers figure that if they're not starting to pay rent for 18 months, then why bother to start trading?
Graham Parker, Editor