Belfast Telegraph

Store chain bags site at top retail hotspot

City's pedestrianised shopping street gets Cath Kidston outlet

By Margaret Canning

Retailer Cath Kidston is to be the latest arrival at Belfast's new retail hotspot, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Low-key Arthur Street, between Donegall Place and Victoria Square shopping centre, has seen a flood of new high-end retailers in the last three years, pulling in well-heeled shoppers despite the retail gloom.

A large unit opposite trendy bar Cafe Vaudeville is now being fitted out on behalf of Cath Kidston, a 'lifestyle' retailer selling fancy goods and clothing.

It's understood upmarket leisure wear company Crew is looking at a unit in the area, while quirky clothes label Fat Face is rumoured to be considering the locality for a second Belfast shop.

Pricey fashion label Jack Wills and kitchen goods brand Le Creuset opened close to womenswear shop Jigsaw and stationer Paperchase a few months ago, just ahead of the Christmas rush.

Cheaper rents are attracting tenants, with charges of up to £130 per sq ft per year in Arthur St, compared to as much as £180 per sq ft around the corner in Donegall Place.

The experience of Arthur Street and Arthur Square contrasts with struggles elsewhere in the city centre as shops belonging to chains like La Senza and Blacks Leisure face closure due to difficulties at their parent company.

Gavin Elliott, associate director at CBRE, said the area was strengthening thanks to its closeness to Victoria Square shopping centre - but money was the bottom line.

"The reasons for the increase in popularity with tenants is due to the level of overheads (rents, rates and other property related costs) being historically lower than Donegall Place, Victoria Square and CastleCourt."

He said the area also benefited from being pedestrianised, adding: "We expect there will be further new entrants into the Belfast market in 2012 to capitalise on low rental levels and strong incentive packages available from landlords.'

Anne-Marie Lonergan, retail director at agency Savills, said over 60% of Belfast's premium brands were in the area, creating a buzz for those considering opening up in the province.

"Retailers who are typically high street brands like Jack Wills and Le Creuset have taken advantage of the increase in footfall around the Arthur Street and Victoria Square area and opened their first outlets in Northern Ireland."

Northern Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said the success of Arthur Street reflected a trend for people to spend more buying fewer things, leading to the success of more expensive shops.