Every Lidl helps for Connswater Shopping Centre
The last time I wrote about Connswater Shopping Centre and retail park, it was all doom and gloom. Now it's the reverse.
News that Lidl plans to develop a 23,000 sq ft store at the development will be widely welcomed by centre management and consumers in general - particularly after the exodus of Dunnes Stores and Tesco.
When major tenants such as Tesco and Dunnes exit a shopping centre, it can often have a very negative impact on other traders. But the news that Lidl has come to the rescue will certainly be music to the ears of existing and future tenants.
Interestingly, other major retail players, such as Halfords and Specsavers, have also announced big plans for the centre, and this, too, will help attract other high-profile tenants.
In the retail world, this is known as "cumulative attraction". In other words, when a centre (or retail destination) loses tenants, it can often be difficult to attract new prospects. A direct corollary of this is that, whenever things look to be on the up, other retailers find centres such as Connswater a much more attractive proposition.
From a consumer point of view, Lidl now attracts a much wider cross-section of the community. Recent statistics show that it is rapidly expanding among the higher AB socio-economic groupings, while at the same time losing its image as a discounter.
The German retailer is successfully repositioning itself as a key player and brand name to be reckoned with.
Despite this, consumers in an historic Cheshire village were recently most vociferous when they learned that the "upmarket" supermarket they had been promised by local developers was not a Waitrose, but, in fact, a Netto outlet.
Let's hope that shoppers in east Belfast are a bit more pragmatic and recognise the fact that, while they may not have a Tesco on their doorsteps, they have managed to find a constantly improving and rapidly developing store group such as Lidl to provide them with essential food and non-food product lines at highly affordable prices.
It's far from too Lidl, too late for Connswater.
Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at the Ulster University Business School