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The North West’s post-pandemic bounce has set the tone for the wider UK retail market


Quality retail destinations across the North West have seen innovation and a willingness to invest from occupiers and investors over the past year. In addition, shoppers have emerged bleary eyes from the pandemic ready to enjoy fully immersive retail and leisure experiences.

What’s happening in Liverpool?
In Liverpool city centre, new entrant Redical snapped up Clayton Square Shopping Centre as an indicator of its faith in the UK-wide market. If that took that market by surprise, Next’s relocation to the former Forever 21 on Church Street, after decades in the old C&A building, is an emphatic vote of confidence in the city.

Decathlon has committed to the vacant Next store, providing a boost to Church Street, alongside a letting of the upper parts to StoreAway. 

The announcement that M&S is relocating to the former Debenhams in Liverpool One has created shockwaves and leaves a question mark over the existing store, which has traded as M&S for over a century. 

Leisure specialist Gravity will open in 100,000 sq ft of the upper floors of the Debenhams; not its first foray into a former department store and probably not the last.

Greater Manchester retail
In Bury, The Range took advantage of favourable market conditions as the new anchor in The Rock, having also taken the plunge on a former Homebase in Blackpool. The Mill Gate Centre will take on a new identity during the next decade as Bury Council and Bruntwood embark on its regeneration.

In Manchester, activity in the city centre and at the Trafford Centre has reflected the trends in the wider market, with jewellery shops leading a charge on mall acquisitions as they push for market share. Also, advised by Colliers, Sky opened its largest UK flagship store at the end of last year in the city.

Town centre activity 
Across the region, town centres are a major focus of investor interest as era-defining low capital values have encouraged strategic buyers to surf the sentiment of the return to physical shopping. In Preston, following the sale of the Fishergate Centre in 2020, local investor Adhan Group swept in to purchase the St Georges Shopping Centre to add to earlier deals on Port Arcades in Ellesmere Port and Belle Vale in Liverpool. It has also added The Mall in Blackburn to its expanding portfolio.

Frankly it has been difficult to keep up as local councils have partnered with developers and property companies to invigorate stalled retail and leisure driven projects. In Lancaster, the Canal Quarter is seeing fresh initiative, just as the former BHS in the city centre has finally been re-let to Zizzi’s, Loungers and Nando’s, all strong additions to the casual dining economy.

In Burnley ground has been broken on the new Pioneer Place leisure scheme, with Maple Grove and the council combining to deliver a new cinema and restaurant units. Lidl will eventually occupy the existing cinema in a further indication of the continuing growth in the discounter sector.

Food retailing
As the ‘Big Four’ food retailers continue to evaluate existing estates and revise strategies, Lidl and Aldi are targeting dozens of locations across the region as their market share reflects wider economic and societal changes. Given the scale of town centre redevelopments, we expect that opportunities for edge-of-town stores will increase as stakeholders evaluate exactly what is required in the town centres of the future.

Non-food out-of-town retail market
The non-food out-of-town retail market has enjoyed strong performance in the last year. Consolidation of income and rightsizing of units is the theme, given a lack of vacant space as consumers favour the shopping park sector. This has caught the attention of investors with sales in Ellesmere Port, Barrow-in-Furness, Bolton and Eccles. If there is a theme in these transactions it is that the parks are generally mixed use and discount led, with M7 and Realty Income particularly active in the sector.

Overall, the last year has witnessed an enormous amount of retail market activity across the North West region. There has to be a cautionary note given rising inflation and how that affects consumer spending and occupier’s costs, however the post-pandemic bounce and acceptance of values has demonstrated the region’s ability to set the tone for the wider UK market.

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About the author
David Fox is Co Head of UK Retail Agency, responsible for retail coverage in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. He has advised for a wide range of investors, institutions and property companies on their assets, including shopping centres, high streets, transport hubs and retail parks. 

To contact David, email

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David Fox

Co-Head of Retail Agency

Retail Agency - North

London - West End

 I am a former partner at BCL and have specialised in retail property in the Midlands ,North ,Scotland and Northern Ireland throughout my career.
Within my role as Co Head of UK Retail Agency  I have responsibility for our retail coverage in Birmingham,Leeds ,Manchester ,Glasgow and Edinburgh , and continue to build relationships with new and existing clients. 

Over my career I have advised a wide number of retail occupiers in their proprty strategies including DixonsCarphone, Boux Avenue , Hotel Chocolat , Costa and  Oliver Bonas.

I have advised a  range of investors , institutions and property companies in respect of their assets across the country , including shopping centres, high streets , transport hubs and retail parks. 

In an ever changing market  my experience has extended into asset management roles in respect of compromised shopping centres on behalf of recovery specialists and  lenders. The repurposing and regeneration of town centres and shopping centres  is an area of particular interest and  the focus of my team and colleagues.  as our industry rises to the challenge     set by change.



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