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Arndale hits 38m visitors, may buy ‘BHS corner’

Simon Binns talks to centre manager Glen Barkworth

Written by . Published on March 1st 2011.

Arndale hits 38m visitors, may buy ‘BHS corner’

Manchester Arndale welcomed 38.1 million people through its doors last year – an increase of 1.1 million on 2009.

“The corner that belongs to BHS is a mess. We’ve talked about buying the freehold before but we’ve been so far apart in terms of valuations that it’s never been worth talking. But our door has been knocked.”

The figures are understood to have made the Arndale the most visited shopping centre in the UK during 2010, including the Trafford Centre.

Centre manager Glen Barkworth told Confidential the Arndale also recorded more than a million visitors a week for the first three weeks of December, as people tackled their Christmas shopping. Sales also increased by six per cent year on year.

“We were affected by the weather – but Brent Cross and Bluewater had to close,” said Barkworth. “We were clear because we’re in the city centre. Public transport was still working and people could get in.”

Barkworth also said talks had resumed for the Arndale to buy the ‘BHS corner’ – the huge ugly chunk of space that sits on the corner of Market Street and High Street. BHS currently owns the freehold.

“The corner that belongs to BHS is a mess,” he said. “We’ve talked about buying the freehold before but we’ve been so far apart in terms of valuations that it’s never been worth talking. But our door has been knocked.

“Discussions have been reinstated but a lot of it depends on what Philip Green decides to do with BHS.

“There’s more unused space than used – BHS has five floors and only uses three, for example. You could easily put another 500,000 sq ft of space on.

“With those numbers, talk will immediately turn to John Lewis. I think they’d welcome the opportunity to come into Manchester, but the deal would have to be right. A landlord won’t give space away.”

The Arndale is now a stable-mate of its former competitor, The Trafford Centre, following its purchase by Capital Shopping Centres.

Barkworth said that while it was still a competitor, the centres served different markets. “They are probably a more family-orientated offering, reaching out to a more mature audience,” he said.

“We are perhaps a bit younger and mass market with the brands we have, like Topshop and Superdry. We don’t have a department store, for example. That tends to affect the demographic. We serve a younger, more vibrant community.”

Liverpool One had little impact on the Arndale, with a survey carried out by Barkworth’s team showing shoppers from Liverpool only made up two per cent of its footfall.

New Cathedral Street, also owned by the Arndale, was performing well, with recent addition Hugo Boss trading ‘remarkably’ since replacing Heal’s. “We perhaps need to look at the tenant mix there,” he said. “Perhaps we put too much pressure on our agents to find the really high end brands.”

He said The Avenue at Spinningfields would work ‘in time’. “Balance is the key. Bringing all those brands in, some will fail but it will bring others in too, once it gets established,” he said.

The food court in the Arndale, which has 1,000 covers, made £10m for the first year ever. That equates to £10,000 per cover.

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24 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

J E SibberingFebruary 28th 2011.

Yay if they manage to get John Lewis in there.

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2011.

Nevermind the BHS corner, they really need to go beyond this and open the centre out, drastically improving its permeability. This would improve the ambiance and vitality of the whole shopping core and would encourage people to spend more time and money there.

The city centre should play to its strengths and the Arndale is an integral part of that. Large, ugly fortress-like malls like the Arndale are best suited to out-of-town, car dependent locations like Trafford, we should not be consolidating these flaws. Building on the 'BHS corner' will only really help resolve one of a number of issues with the Arndale Centre that prevent the Centre and the wider city centre from fulfilling their potential.

Ali McGowanFebruary 28th 2011.

So how would you open it out? And who'll pay? ;) Yay if they manage to get John Lewis. I won't need to visit the Traffic Centre any more.

M30February 28th 2011.

"Large, ugly fortress-like malls like the Arndale are best suited to out-of-town, car dependent locations like Trafford"

What do we put in it's place? A field with a lesbian selling organic cotton from a trestle table?

The Arndale is great, because it's in the city centre and well connected with public transport - unlike the Trafford Centre, which should never have been built without a proviso that Peel extend the Metrolink to it like Meadowhall.

I still miss getting out of the Arndale at the Cannon Street to get the bus, or the subterranian Greggs.

The Arndale has come on leaps and bounds. Shopping Centres have lifespans, and the Arndale has evolved accordingly.

Liverpool One is all very well, but isn't it slightly reminiscent of the windswept precincts of the 1970s on a bigger scale?

Last word on the Arndale: The market is now crap. Too many Asian stalls specialising in mobile phone accessories and the vegetable stand is nothing short of a disgrace with produce fit for the bin.

My views on the "butchers" have been covered in other threads.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 2nd 2011.

Did we nee the lesbian comment?

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2011.

I last went in the Arndale in 1990 to buy some glasses. What an appalling place. I've never been in the Trafford Centre.

Thank goodness the interent came along so I don't have to mix with brain dead hobby shoppers in either place

1 Response: Reply To This...
Ali McGowanNovember 7th 2011.

You're a bag of fun! Your spell check seems to be broken, too.

Captain ZadFebruary 28th 2011.

Good on the Arndale. The re-invented north part is actually very very good in terms of sharp design. Like it. The market is poor but that probably reflects the....er... market. City centre malls are here to stay, to wish them away would be farcical. But the bit near Debenhams does need sorting. It's frankly depressing.

Burt CodeineFebruary 28th 2011.

I read something, somewhere once...definitely read it though...and it was a mention of Daniel Liebeskind building a retail building in Manchester. That's probably consigned to a one off comment. However I think that space need something really special and bold. As it stands it should really be in the People History Museum as a timepiece of what 70's/80's Manchester was like...maybe Apple can have a standalone there? Read recently that John Lewis have no real desire to enter the city proper (due to very successful Trafford and Cheadle locations).

AnonymousFebruary 28th 2011.

There are sound commercial reasons for the owners of the Arndale Centre to pursue a more fundamental redevelopment. It was reported last week in the news item about the £50m investment into the Trafford Centre this investment wouldn't undermine the Arndale because the Arndale serves a different market with visitors there lingering for a shorter amount of time and spending less money than those at the Trafford Cetnre.

If the dreary, inward-looking, characterless Arndale Centre could improve the shoppers' experience by improving links to the surrounding street network through careful reconfiguration of units at key entrance points, by introducing 24hs public access, by diversifying the tenure mix to encourage use of the centre outside shopping hours and introducing high quality public realm into the heart of the cetnre, it would be used more intensively, take more money and because of its scale improve the viability of the whole of the city centure.It doesn't necessarily mean starting over, rather playing to the centre's strength as an 'in-town' shopping location and adapting it to better reflect the finer grain, livelier, more diverse and interesting location it sits in.

Whilst the old Cannon Street was a horrible place, it was a mistake to allow the Arndale to shut it off entirely out of hours when the northern section was redeveloped, turning the Arndale Centre into an even bigger, bland and impenetrable lump than it was previously. No wonder the Northern Quarter, for all its virtues remains a fragile retail economy.

Having said all that with Peel now having a significant stake in the company that owns the Arndale Centre you rather suspect that significant investment in the Arndale is a lesser rather than a greater likelihood than before CSC's acquisition of the Trafford Centre.

Anon TooFebruary 28th 2011.

I hear the Apple shop is set to increase its size in the Arndale in different units as it was so successful last year.

I think it's already lined up where it's going though, not too far from where it already is.

Burt CodeineFebruary 28th 2011.

@ANON TOO: Continental Norwich has a much better and bigger Apple Store than Manchester, birthplace of the modern computer, so we should hope for something a little more special than the box we have at the moment. Didn't realise the new section (so called Winter Gardens) was closed off at night...another bit of public space stolen from us.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 2nd 2011.

Joke Winter GARDENS !! Not a single plant in sight!!! Seating is only now being introduced in places, as an experiment, the mangemant claim. At The Trafford Centre there are sofas and benches just like the Malls we visit regularily in Canada.

ABrowneMarch 2nd 2011.

Please sort the Halle Square. It used to be exciting and visually stimulating....it is now drab and unappealing. Disappointing....

AnonymousMarch 2nd 2011.

Just imagine (shock horror!) if there was no Arndale altogether what would we do??its all very contrived how they design spaces solely to get money out of the consumers pocket i dont like it one bit. Nothing is ever designed to satisfy the consumer we are treated with utter contempt! Overpriced mediocre goods, apathetic customer service mostly, great!The whole consumerism experience bores me to death, i've got better things to do with my time and money than to trawl round pushy rude crowds being stung for crap made in China! Why should i give my hard earned dosh to massive chains creaming off huge profits at the expense of paying staff minimum wage and expecting them to love their jobs? Im all for co-ops and self employment within cottage industries personally.Northern qtr and craft centre better but still pricey due to high rental spaces possibly which help no one really. Better quality, unique stuff i would pay a little more for and rather help individuals than corporations. Can't remember the last time i bought anything of value from the Arndale etc. I often get the same Topshop, BHS, George, F&F items for under 3 quid in my local charity shop. even the overpriced coffee shops are a joke cant believe people still buy into the hype of it all. Swathes of rainforest destroyed, land cleared to produce cocoa/coffee cash crops stinging poor farmers once again for those at the top to cream it off? No thanks!

Katie AmosMarch 2nd 2011.

The Arndale is good at what it does - it has nice bits for nicer shops and cheap out of the way bits for cheaper shops. In other words it is like a city centre in it's own right. The fact that it is all undercover is a great bonus for Manchester, I hardly ever go to the shops outside of the Arndale if it is raining. Those that think we should not have malls in City Centres should go to Tokyo and see how successful they are over there - you hardly see shops along streets in the city centre there. I don't feel it should be open for access 24 hours - it opens early enough for me to walk through on my way to work ( I start at 8am) and is open late enough fro me to walk through on my way home (after 6pm), it shouldn't be upto the Arndale to police it's 'streets' from the drunken masses trying to get from the Printworks to other parts. I like the Arndale and would take it over the false prettiness of the Trafford Centre anyday.

ManchesterbirdMarch 2nd 2011.

Anon - I read all of your rants for some reason in the voice of 'Kenneth Williams' " Bland & impenatrable lump " Loved that! :0)

Brian CMarch 2nd 2011.

@manchesterbird. Just spluttered coffee all over my laptop thanks. I read it in 'Paul O'Grady' (easier on the drawn out vowels dept)worked very well!

AnonymousNovember 2nd 2011.

Hate the Arndale and only go into it when I really need to. The Trafford Centre is ok if go when the traffic not so bad, or later in the day. Always more of a Chav magnet the Arndale!
The corner by BHS is an absolute dump and reminds me of East Berlin in the early 80's.

AnonymousNovember 2nd 2011.

JOHN LEWIS in the city centre? YES P L E A S E !!!!

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2011.

So ManConners don't like Asians, lesbians and chavs.. what a surprise. Why don't they just go down the Avenue where they belong.

Jonathan SchofieldNovember 3rd 2011.

Eh. Not really Anon. Some ranters might feel as you state but I've taken probably about 2000 readers at least on various tours and they are the nicest, most polite, intelligent group of people you could find.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Ali McGowanNovember 7th 2011.

Apart from me :)

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2011.

the arndale is great for mancs as we do have a great transport infrastructure! , trafford center is great for the all the people who come from anywhere with a motorway near!
i agree the market is a shadow of its former self, but the whole site is smarter, brighter and a lot safer than the ardale of my youth

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