Comment by N Coultish – Commercial Property Surveyor      

UK City of Culture has increased the feel-good factor and increased confidence in Hull's retail sector.

Nationally, retail has been subject to severe pressures over the past decade, including the rise of internet shopping and changing consumer habits, such as an increase in out of town shopping. Hull has not been immune to such pressures, most evident by the well-publicised closure of BHS in the city, leaving a large vacant property in the heart of the city centre. There are signs however that UK City of Culture Status has helped Hull gain ground on regional competition.

When UK City of Culture Status was announced in 2013, research indicated that Hull had an oversupply of City Centre retail accommodation, similar to most towns and cities of a comparable size. Since then, in the run up to 2017 and the year itself, a number of national, regional and local names have established themselves in the City Centre, likely benefitting from the increased footfall and focus on Hull resulting from its title.

Sports Direct have acquired new premises on Ferensway, investing in a new flagship store previously occupied by TJ Hughes and most recently Poundland bringing a high profile retail premises back into use. In addition, Lush relocated to larger premises on Jameson Street and Paddy Power moved into vacant premises on King Edward Street, most recently occupied by Heaven Independent Café.

Much of the retail activity has taken place inside shopping centres, including Princes Quay which has invested £20m in remodelling the centre, providing a ‘Outlet Shopping' in addition to its traditional retail offering. Anchored by Next, the investment has also attracted well-known names including; Ben Sherman, Suit Direct and Bench amongst others. The St Stephens Shopping Centre has also benefitted, securing JD Sports alongside two new brands to Hull in the form of ‘Footasylum' and stationary retailer ‘Smiggle'.

Recent research published by PwC and The Local Data Company supports the positive trend, identifying that Hull is leading the way in respect of retail performance. ‘In the first six months of 2017, the number of store openings was higher than those closing across Yorkshire and the Humber.' Hull is performing particularly well, having witnessed ‘a boost in new store openings, underlining the importance of securing investment, visitor numbers and profile as a result of being UK City of Culture 2017.”

In terms of legacy, the recently announced Hull City Council plans to redevelop the former BHS and Edwin Davis buildings in the city centre suggest that the future remains bright for Hull following on from 2017. The proposed development could see a scheme providing retail, housing and leisure, suggesting continued demand in the city.

It would appear that Hull's retail sector is on the up, with the city well and on the map in its year as UK City of Culture.