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New retailers coming to Belfast shows it's becoming an attractive destination for UK and international brands

By Criona Collins

Published 20/10/2015

A retailer’s choice of location is crucial and they spend a lot of time getting it right. While some companies may have found it difficult to find exactly what they want in Belfast, the run of new retailers arriving in the city indicates it is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for both UK and international brands.

We would expect this to continue as occupational costs are at a reasonable level, key retail streets such as Donegall Place and Royal Avenue have benefited from the recent rates revaluation and increased confidence in the economy means consumers are prepared to spend again.

In the last few months alone we have seen brands such as Skechers and DW Sport open new stores on Donegall Place, Aldo has reopened its shop, GAP has moved to a new larger premises from its old Castlecourt site and Zara has also undertaken an extensive refurbishment and expansion. We know of a number of other retail companies looking at bringing more of their brands to the city.

Since it opened Victoria Square has brought 80 new brands to Northern Ireland, including House of Fraser concessions. Lambert Smith Hampton is currently negotiating with a number of new brands who are back tentatively looking at Northern Ireland – and if we can keep up the positive momentum, I’m confident many will commit soon.” It is vitally important to also understand the importance of creating successful and vibrant environments, where retailers flourish and shoppers embrace the overall experience.

To demonstrate the interest in the city, Lambert Smith Hampton Retail Department has 20,000 sq ft of lettings under offer and a further 10,000 sq ft in solicitors hands. Tourism is also very buoyant and this is reflected in the appetite of several UK Food & Beverage operators looking at Belfast City Centre and especially Victoria Square for the first time.

There is also a growing recognition of the importance of retail to creating a thriving city centre in Belfast, which has been reflected in the cohesive approach being taken by Belfast City Council. Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie has brought the Council together with retailers, property agents, the main tourism bodies and Invest NI to create a clear roadmap for city centre investment. The way she has pulled this group together inspires confidence it could actually make things happen.

Criona Collins is head of retail agency at Lambert Smith Hampton

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