Leeds has a long and proud tradition in retail, which is set to be cemented by the opening of Trinity Leeds, a leviathan shopping centre due to open in little over three weeks time. The £350m Land Securities development is predicted to raise Leeds from 7th to 4th in the UK’s list of retail destinations, welcoming 23m visitors in the first year.
But the city’s retail history stretches back well in advance of the modern retail landscape, with everyday names such as Marks and Spencer, Burton and Republic with roots in the city.
Whereas M&S are celebrating their heritage, albeit at a distance, Burton seems to have cut the majority of ties with the City. In recent years, the multinational retailer has hosted history exhibitions at the University of Leeds, and most recently, announced intentions to open a coffee and memorabilia outlet in its true home – Leeds Market (the largest indoor market in Europe by the way).
Burton, on the other hand, founded by Montague Burton, a clothing manufacturer and son of the city, has been more coy about its heritage. Despite a range in Summer 2011, named after the founder, the Arcadia owned retailer does little to promote its roots.
Republic, a more recent addition to the retail landscape, and famously one that fell foul of the financial crisis, has just re-emerged from administration courtesy of Sports Direct. It remains to be seen whether the two brands share any synergy, and time will tell how this manifests itself. Early commentators are already betting on a diversifying sales range, with Sports Direct incorporating Republic stock to make advances in the casual clothing market.
It is perhaps no surprise that Leeds has this reputation for fashion retail, nestled as it is between the heartlands of the Victorian cloth industry, and the export trade hubs of East Yorkshire. What does make Leeds stand out from the norm, is that the City is at the forefront of reinventing this heritage for a modern world.
Trinity will be the only major shopping destination to open in the UK in 2013, showing a bold approach in challenging times. The fact that the centre will be almost fully tenanted, suggests this move is paying dividends.
Retail remains one of the City’s strategic growth areas, alongside finance, media and the medical industry. The body responsible for attracting inward investment for the City, has recently launched a new advertising campaign, match funded by central government. Meanwhile, the organisation’s chief executive, Lurene Joseph, promised a more targeted approach, when speaking at a business forum in late 2012.
With both Trinity and the 13,000 capacity Leeds Arena both due to open in 2013, the Tour De France giving the city an international platform in 2014 and other developments, such as Hammerson’s Eastgate Quarter in the coming years, it seems like Leeds is on the up. With such developments, the council’s stated aim of making Leeds the UK’s ‘best city’ doesn’t seem like such a tall order.