Belfast Telegraph

Footfall increase at major Northern Ireland shopping centres recently subject of refinancing

By Margaret Canning

Footfall has increased in two major Northern Ireland shopping centres that were recently the subject of refinancing.

Forestside in south Belfast and Foyleside in Londonderry were part of a portfolio — belonging to Northern Ireland businessmen John B McGuckian and Ken Cheevers — that was put up for sale by Ulster Bank.

But the two centres were bought back by the pair with the backing of venture capital firm Kildare Partners.

Commercial property agent Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) recorded a sharp rise in footfall at Forestside, with numbers up 7% year-on-year. It came hot on the heels of the Northern Irish Retail Consortium-Springboard Footfall Monitor for August 2014, which showed a 4.2% rise, up from a 5.2% fall in July.

LSH revealed the centre was now fully let thanks to a recent spike in interest, with expansions including Next tripling its unit size to trade over two floors and Swedish fashion retailer H&M also taking over two floors.

On top of that, O2 chose Forestside as the location of its largest store in Northern Ireland, which opened last December.

Ian Henton, retail leasing director at LSH, said: “The landlord at Forestside has actively pursued new retailers to reinvigorate the tenant mix. There is now a much broader offering for shoppers.

“It is positive to see this level of activity in the retail sector. We have noticed a growth in consumer confidence for a while now, and this is driving retailer appetite for new or larger stores, particularly in quality locations.

“The landlord is keen to continue this process at Forestside in the coming months.”

Centre manager Lee Cutler said customers had “embraced” the changes. “The addition of upper floors in Next and H&M has allowed them to showcase a broader range of fashion,” he added.

LSH said Foyleside Shopping Centre in Derry also had a good, year with footfall increasing —though it was not clear by what percentage it had grown.

New names such as Apple iConnect and coffee shop Synge and Byrne are due to open, while Monsoon-Accessorize extended the size of its store.

Belfast Telegraph