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Is The Flagship Big City Store The Future Of Retail?

The in-store model of the retail sector has come under significant challenge in recent years through the rise of online shopping, with many lamenting the apparent demise of town centre high streets.

However, it may be that the trend is far from universal, with major city centres proving a significant exception. Blessed with strong transport links, a wide mix of different stores and many other amenities and facilities that enable people to combine shopping with leisure activities, they can enjoy an attraction that many smaller town and city centres do not.

Alternatively, out-of-town shopping centres on the edge of large cities have advantages of being near motorway junctions and often have a lot of extra attractions themselves.

Fashion industry magazine Drapers has highlighted Manchester as a case in point. Even online retailers acknowledge the appeal the city has and the way retail has played a part in it and capitalised on it at the same time. CEO of e-commerce fashion firm N Brown Group Sarah Welsh observed that both online and offline fashion retail are thriving in Manchester.

Discussing the latter, she said: “Manchester is home to many desirable and aspirational retailers, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols being just two.”

She added that with the Arndale in the city centre and Trafford Centre as the main out-of-town hub, “many of our key UK retailers have invested in flagship stores in the city which are attractive to customers who want the experience of a physical store.”

Another northern city with an historic link to clothes-making that now hosts many upmarket retail stores is Leeds. According to the Times, this may be about to take a further step forward with Frasers Group seeking to buy the Junction 32 shopping centre on the edge of the city.

However, Fraser Group is not just attracted by the opportunities Leeds offers. It recently acquired a mall in Luton and a shopping centre in Dundee, with boss Mike Ashley describing such centres as the “long-term future of physical retail”. It may be this is the way forward for more than just the big cities.

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