Place North West caught up with Miles Dunnett, head of asset management at Liverpool ONE co-owner Grosvenor, to talk about how the centre continues to keep ahead of the game.
Variety is key, according to Dunnett, to ensuring a shopping centre keeps up with consumer demand. "Shoppers are behaving in a different way. If they want to do 'top up' shopping for foodstuffs and other goods, they will go local. However if they go beyond that and want a wider choice, and make shopping part of a day out, they will travel further to access a wider offer.
"Going shopping is a pastime in this country, and people are craving more than just the traditional retail outlets. At Liverpool ONE we now have 50% more leisure frontages than when we opened. In Lord Street alone in the last six months we've had Ed's Easy Diner, Caffé Nero and Tortilla confirmed, and three food and beverage units opening up so close to one another and so quickly just wouldn't have happened a few years ago."
Liverpool ONE was developed by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland. The scheme was funded and is now owned by the Grosvenor Liverpool Fund, which includes Grosvenor and four other investors.
The shopping, leisure and residential centre has 165 retail units. Since opening in 2008, Liverpool ONE seems to have defied the downturn that hit the retail sector particularly hard, with a consistent 1% vacancy rate across the site. In the past 12 months, according to Dunnett, one in three of every new brand into the centre was also new to the North West, a conscious target he intends to maintain.
"Getting the right mix is important," he said. "Most of our time at Grosvenor is spent working up a pipeline of the brands that we want to get into Liverpool ONE, before we necessarily ever know where we're going to put them."
To increase the range of retailers within the centre, Liverpool ONE has recently launched a dedicated pop up area to support local start-ups.
Dunnett confirmed that Grosvenor also has a new development in the pipeline, with a 10,000 sq ft unit for an unnamed leisure occupier. A planning application will be submitted before Christmas.
While the growing leisure market was a key focus, Dunnett also highlighted growth in other retail areas. "In terms of future trends, we're seeing more interest from non-fashion occupiers. The opening of Bose, Argos and Cadenza have set a good precedent, and it seems to be a growing market. What is uncertain is how pure fashion shops will fare in the coming years, with buying trends moving so fast."
A Grosvenor announcement this summer confirmed that performance had been strong for Liverpool ONE in the first six months of the year, with sales increasing by 4.6% overall. The trend continued in July, with sales up by 6.7%.
Rents are expected to go up later this year, which Dunnett said was unusual in the current market. The pulling power of the food and drink industry also means that leisure units are commanding rents of a much more prime level than in other areas of the city.
"In a location as strong as Liverpool ONE, rental values for food and beverage units are similar to A1 prices, whereas generally there is more of a discrepancy," he said.
"Liverpool ONE has a quality feel about it, that marks it out as different from the rest of the city. I wish it wasn't like that – I wish the rest of Liverpool was as clean, and uncluttered, and utilised its public realm properly. That said, Liverpool has come a long way and has really grown up as a city. The giant puppet show, conferences, the International Festival of Business, all these events have put us in a really strong position."