There has been a lot of chat over the last three or four years on the benefits and practicalities of repurposing surplus retail real estate into other uses.
Bandied around the industry has been a range of alternative uses including senior living, medical services, hotels, residential and a host of leisure uses.
We have recently worked on one such deal, which has seen the former Debenhams at Southside Shopping Centre, Wandsworth, transformed into Gravity’s flagship site on behalf of landlords Landsec and Invesco Real Estate. Having taken place during the three lockdowns, the deal saw 80,000 sq ft of space be repurposed and has recently opened its doors to customers.
Gravity Southside is a completely immersive experience with three floors of activities on offer. From arcade games to bowling there is also an e-karting track, which weaves around columns and escalators as well as throughout everything else that is taking place on the former shop. It is sensory overload; but in the most exciting and innovative way.
Now it is open, we are able to quantify the benefits that Gravity has brought to Southside. In the first week of opening, the attraction accounted for a third of the footfall in the scheme. This is a level of activity that was previously unseen at the centre with Debenhams not having nearly the same ability to draw in customers. Not only has Gravity benefitted from such strong footfall since opening, but it has also had a positive knock-on effect on the other tenants of the centre, and it will be interesting to track this over time.
Testament to this is the fact that the deal has been nominated for the Property Week Awards in the ‘Deal of the Year’ category. The addition of Gravity, combined with a recently extended Decathlon and a newly refurbished Waterstones, cements Southside as a suburban London shopping centre which caters to its diverse and extensive customer catchment.
We are gradually seeing former Debenhams stores being repurposed, re-let and redeveloped in a way that makes sense for their locality. At Southside this has been done successfully by understanding the local population and understanding who visits the scheme in order to repurpose the retail real estate.
It is now no longer just a theory – we have the evidence to back up how the right use can improve a location.
About the author
Jessica Short is an associate director in our Retail Agency team who specialises in shopping centres and high street stores across the UK. She works with multi-national landlords including Catalyst Capital, Aberdeen Standard and Hermes, as well as several occupiers such as Vodafone, Superdrug and Jigsaw.
To contact Jessica, email Jessica.Short@colliers.com