Viewpoint - 27/03/2012

Cambridge bucks the national trend

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The retail sector continues to struggle and we have seen a large number of high profile business failures over the past six months including Peacocks, Barratts, La Senza, Hawkins Bazaar and Past Times to name but a few. Many others are nervously looking over their shoulders including Game, Thorntons, Clinton Cards and HMV.

Cambridge a ‘hot spot’ for retailers

Cambridge, whilst not immune to these national trends, continues to be a ‘hot spot’ for retailers. A recent survey carried out by the Local Data Company highlighted that Cambridge had a vacancy rate of just 6.4%, compared with 14.3% nationally and a huge 2% below any other major town or city in the UK.

Continued re-invention of the shopping offer has been a significant influence on the city. The opening of Grand Arcades in 2008 undoubtedly drew Cambridge up the retail rankings, offering retailers modern space of a usable size, and contributed to a huge influx of quality national operators. Demand remains high for the city, and is high on every retailer’s wish list as a location.

Rents have taken a sharp turn for the worse

Not that Cambridge has had it all its own way. As we have also seen across the UK, rents have taken a battering. Recent deals on Market Street show a reduction in rent of 30% over the levels that were being achieved pre-2008. And parts of the city fall further into decline – the Grafton Centre struggling to keep itself at the forefront of shoppers minds when competing against the enhanced city centre offering. Values on Fitzroy Street are nearly 40% below rents being achieved pre 2008 which reflects the waning appeal of the scheme.

Cambridge to be at the forefront of recovery when market improves

Cambridge remains a vibrant and diverse retailing centre, with an excellent range of national, regional and local independent retailers. Certainly its excellent catchment and visitor population is of great influence, and it is likely that Cambridge will be at the forefront of recovery when the markets improve.


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