Council ‘confident of success’ as Sports Direct joins Barons Quay

Retail agent GCW has confirmed Sports Direct will be opening an 18,000 sq ft store at Barons Quay in time for Christmas as council bosses said the £71m retail scheme was close to attracting a “critical mass” to make it a success.

The sports retailer is set to take a unit over two floors which will open later this year; it will join The Entertainer and H&M, which is set to open a 21,500 sq ft in October, as tenants at the 225,000 sq ft retail and leisure scheme.

The Entertainer is taking a 3,000 sq ft unit near to Asda, which will also open in the run-up to Christmas.

Sports Direct’s deal leaves 21 units still to let at Barons Quay, which was developed by Cheshire West & Chester Council and opened in 2016 at a cost of £71m.

Of these available units, 15 are retail and six are leisure. Other tenants at the scheme include Asda and Marks & Spencer for retail, while the leisure is anchored by cinema chain Odeon and restaurant Wildwood.

Speaking to Place North West earlier this month, Cheshire West & Chester’s director of place commissioning and commercial management Graham Pink admitted that lettings at Barons Quay “had been slower than we [the council] would have liked” but added the council was “confident the scheme will go on to be a great success for Northwich”.

“We can’t deny that trading conditions are tough; towns like Northwich are struggling against a national market at the moment. But we’re heartened by the conversations we’re having with retailers at the moment, and half the battle is to get a critical mass of people into Barons Quay.”

Some of the retail units could also potentially be set aside for other uses including flexible workspace, or be used for independent retailers, he added.

“We’re also talking to a number of other retailers who will be new names to the town centre, which is exciting; but absolutely our minds are also open to a whole range of different uses that may be available.

“Part of the consultation work we’re doing on [former shopping centre] Weaver Square is to pick up as many ideas from local people as we can.”

Retail agent GCW was added to the Barons Quay retail agent team in April this year, working alongside Brasier Freeth, in a bid to attract more tenants.

The council also signed off a budget of £1.3m to support lettings at the development; this includes helping with professional fees, providing allowances for bespoke fit-outs, and promoting events at the site.

Nick Warr, director at GCW, said the H&M and Sports Direct deals would give “fresh impetus” to the retail agent’s leasing campaign.

“The aim is to get as many retailers open and trading for Christmas,” he said.

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