The new Bullring has proved to be a massive boon for the Birmingham retail market, according to a leading retail property expert.
The Bullring's arrival on the retail scene has nearly doubled shoppers' spend in the Birming-ham market and boosted the number of shoppers visiting the city by nearly half. At the same time, prime zone A rents have remained stable at #300 per sq ft, firmly in the top three in the UK, according to the latest figures from CACI's UK retail research.
The increase in footfall and retail spend is good news for Bullring developers The Birmingham Alliance, who have confirmed that work is now beginning on the outstanding phase of the scheme. A building on Smallbrook Queensway, forming part of the original Bull Ring estate, is being redeveloped to create prime retail and office space. Called Bullring Link, it will have direct access into Debenhams and the Bullring itself.
Nick Round, director of retail agency at Lambert Smith Hampton, Birmingham, is equally upbeat.
"Now that the Bullring is six months old, and comparative data with other retail centres is available, we can see that an absolute benefit the centre and its new retailers have brought to the city's offer," says he says.
"More shoppers than ever are visiting Birmingham, and, more importantly for retailers, they are spending more money than ever before, as the quality and availability of the retailer offer has improved."
The latest figures from CACI's UK retail research show that the comparison spend in the Birmingham market increased 92 per cent from #1,148 million (in January 2003) to #2,206.
Four million (in January 2004), while the modelled shopper population has gone up 46 per cent from 730,972 to 1,068648 in the same time period.
"This puts Birmingham in third place behind Glasgow and London for spending, which shows the pull of the new retailers.
"More importantly, this has been achieved while prime zone A rents have remained solid at #300 per sq ft, although 1.2 million sq ft of new retail space has been added. This makes Birmingham the largest prime retail pitch outside London."
According to Mr Round, strong demand from retailers means that rents will start to climb again towards the end of 2004, or early in 2005.
"Even with all this new space, Birmingham continues to compete very well with other major retail centres in terms of rental prices which landlords can command," he says.
"It is again third in the league of premium Zone A rents behind London and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and on a par with Manchester."
Researchably Lambert Smith Hampton shows that rental growth in London's West End has stalled, with prime Zone A rents on Oxford Street at #480 psf, down from #500 psf.
However, in Newcastle, Zone A rents on the city's prime Northumberland Street pitch are #325 psf.
"Lack of space on the prime pitch in Newcastle has jacked up the prices," says Mr Round.
Forecasts for 2004 rents published in Lambert Smith Hampton's Retail Cities Report are that in most major UK retail centres, rents will remain stable.