The Hut Group confirms Airport City mega-deal

Online beauty retailer The Hut Group has finalised its deal to develop 1m sq ft of office and studio space over two sites at Manchester’s Airport City, in what it said will be a total investment of more than £750m in the area over the next three years.

The deal confirms the desire of Matthew Moulding’s business, which remains highly acquisitive, to create a major campus environment at Airport City, which has been a constant market rumour since early this year. THG will engage Airport City and Stoford, the two landowners, as developers, taking ownership upon completion.

The larger of the two sites, THQ, is described as a landmark business campus and is to be built over 16.8 acres in four phases, with phase one comprising office buildings totalling 280,000 sq ft. An option agreement has been reached between THG and Airport City Manchester for phases two, three and four of the business campus. Ultimately supporting up to 10,000 jobs, the project represents the UK’s largest bespoke office development outside London, Hut Group said.

Airport City Manchester’s joint venture partners will act on behalf of THG as the project’s developer, working in partnership with architect and interior designer Penson. A planning application has now been submitted, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2019.

The Hut Group has this year established a presence at Airport City, taking 79,000 sq ft of office space in the Voyager and 4M buildings, while away from Airport City, the business last month signed for the final 16,000 sq ft floor at Orange tower in MediaCityUK, at which it is basing a technology team.

The group employs around 5,000 people globally, of which around 1,000 are currently based at the Manchester Airport offices.

At the second Airport City site, THG is to build ICON, a content creation studio, on an 11.6 acre site, with Stoford acting as developer – Stoford acquired 45 acres of brownfield land from the Airport City JV in summer 2017 with TPG. The Hut Group last year acquired content studio Hangar 7, and said that the studio will expand the group’s content production capabilities dramatically.

The ICON development will provide an extra 104,000 sq ft. of office space over four floors as well as additional content creation facilities totalling 168,000 sq. ft. ICON will house around 2,000 people focused on video production and photography, to be used across THG’s digital offering.

Basing itself at the airport reflects the global nature of the business the Hut Group has become, with more than 70% of group sales coming from overseas in 2017, at a company that represents 66 nationalities. THG’s proprietary technology platform, THG Ingenuity, now operates in 35 languages and 42 currencies, supported by 32 payment options and delivering to 193 territories.

Matthew Moulding, founder and chief executive, said: “THQ is a landmark development for THG and another important step in our growth story. As we continue to extend our global footprint, it makes sense for us to base our headquarters at Airport City in Manchester, with its global connections and access to talent and supply chains worldwide.

“THQ and ICON cement our position as a significant player and employer in the UK and we look forward to expanding even further from here, attracting and retaining the most innovative and inventive talent from across the globe.”

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, said: “As a technology-led, e-commerce business with a significant international footprint, THG is the ideal anchor occupier for the first phase of Airport City Manchester, which will bring significant job creation to the region and further emphasise our position as a hub for international commerce.

“We have worked closely with THG to help the company establish its initial presence at Airport City Manchester and will develop our relationship to deliver what will be the largest office development deal outside London for over 20 years. This is a major boost for the delivery of Airport City, where we still have 60 acres of land available to deliver a further 2m sq ft of business space.”

The professional team for THQ, in addition to Penson, includes Edmond Shipway as project manager and quantity surveyor, OBI as property agent and law firm Gowling WLG.

Will Lewis of OBI told Place North West: “THG are one of the genuine success stories of the North West in recent years, and their growth has been hugely impressive. What we’re seeing from THG, and others like, is a desire to develop campus-style accommodation, to really allow them to strengthen their brand and take charge of the whole of their workplace environment – in our view, this is the key property trend of 2018.”

THG’s professional team for Icon is Stoford as developer, P3 Property as agent, Webb Gray as architect.

The Airport City professional team includes BDP as delivery architect, Faithful+Gould as PM and QS, Hoare Lea on M&E, RoC Consulting as structural and civil engineer, Deloitte as planner, Exterior Architecture on landscape, Aecom as highways and utilities engineer and Eversheds Sutherland on legals CBRE and JLL are the retained agents.

THG @ Airport City 2 (002)

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