A Tale of Two Cities – But Which Has the Biggest Retail Ambition?

16th November 2011

When it comes to retail, Nottingham’s right in there at the top of the rankings. AMY D’HOOGHE who has recently moved from Leeds to Nottingham to work at NG Chartered Surveyors says the city needs to up its game to stay ahead.

According to the CACI retail index Nottingham is one place ahead of Leeds in this year’s top 10 ranking. Nottingham’s right in there at number six – with Leeds snapping at its heels at number seven.

Having moved from Leeds, back to my home town of Nottingham, I was keen to hit the shops and remind myself of what Nottingham’s retail centre had to offer ahead of Leeds.

Leeds is famous for the first Harvey Nichols store outside of London and with the stunning Victoria Quarter, a niche, upmarket shopping arcade and the quirky Kirkgate markets, I was surprised as to how the city as a retail destination could be lagging behind Nottingham.

Leeds is undoubtedly a city keen to promote its retail offering. This month the city hosted the only UK festival dedicated to shopping.

Like Nottingham, Leeds has a number of vintage and independent stores. As Nottingham’s retail centre is compact, this is a real benefit to shoppers and possibly why it is higher than Leeds in the rankings. Our vintage offering is fantastic too – with stores like Cow in Hockley, Celia’s in Derby Road, and Kitsch in the city centre.

Another reason why Nottingham is better than Leeds is its independent niche offer. In the Lace Market, there are small independents with high end craft. At the last count, Nottingham has more than 1,100 retail outlets which is absolutely fantastic.

Nottingham has now a retail spend figure £1.81bn ahead of Leeds, Westfield London and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Nottingham’s highest spending age group is the 35 to 44 range, and the fastest growing consumer group is over 55. Nottingham has a large student population of over 60,000 – demonstrating another key consumer group with a focus to young fashion in the 16 to 21 age range.

In Nottingham, everything is in easy walking distance unlike Leeds which seems to sprawl out for miles. The city benefits from a good mix of high street names, top end boutiques and unique, one-of-a-kind stores and most of the retail centre has been pedestrianised, from the Victoria Centre down to the Broadmarsh.

However, Nottingham needs to take heed. Leeds is upping its game. Land Securities is forging ahead with Trinity Leeds due for completion in 2013 and the distinctive glass dome is beginning to appear on the city’s skyline. This scheme will provide circa 1,000,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space and looks set to transform the city centre. Add to this Hammerson’s Eastgate Quarters scheme, while the developers are some way off starting on site, the development is now being backed by Leeds City Council. Could it be that Leeds could be surpassing Nottingham?

With Leeds being less than two hours’ drive away, it is an attractive proposition to shoppers in the East Midlands – so Nottingham needs to keep up.

With the Westfield Broadmarsh scheme back on track, and completion due in 2015, let’s hope that this attracts a keystone store like Harvey Nichols or Selfridges to really give Nottingham that edge and keep it ahead of the competition. For me, I’m just happy to be back in a city that has a John Lewis!

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