Occupancy rates reflect improving retail sentiment

Improving sentiment in the retail sector has been reflected by four recent lettings at St Elli Shopping Centre in the heart of Llanelli, which has brought the scheme to almost full occupation. Cooke & Arkwright and Jackson Criss, joint letting agents, have leased four units at the centre to Burger King, Yours Clothing, Mobile Buddy and Emilia May Gifts on behalf of the owner, NewRiver Retail. The leading specialist REIT, which is focussed on the UK food and value retail sector, purchased St Elli shopping centre from Axa for almost £30m at the end of 2013.

The 160,000 sq ft retail development is anchored by an ASDA supermarket at one end and a traditional market hall at the other. Comprising more than 20 stores on one floor under a distinctive glass pyramid ceiling, it attracts over 135,000 visitors each week. Huw Thomas, Director of Retail at Cooke & Arkwright said, “We are delighted to have secured four new retailers for St Elli. Each provides a completely different product offering and enhances the existing retail mix at the centre. NewRiver are pro-active landlords who are keen to improve over time the shopping experience within St Elli and to assist in making Llanelli town centre a vibrant shopping destination once again.”

Burger King has taken the former Gamestation store and its 85-seat restaurant is proving a popular draw at the centre. Mobile phones and accessories specialist Mobile Buddy has moved into the former Julian Graves shop, while the national ladies fashion retailer Yours Clothing has taken the former New Look unit. An independent, quality gift shop, Emilia May Gifts, has relocated from small premises in nearby Stepney Street and expanded into the former Thorntons unit. It is a popular local business which sources hand-made regional gifts as well as carefully selected items from around the world, most of which are not often found on the high street.

Centre Manager Andrew Stephens said, “NewRiver are very ‘hands-on’ and they have implemented a number of initiatives which are enhancing this vibrant scheme. St Elli is a great community retail destination and NewRiver is committed to helping drive the town’s economic regeneration forward.”

Events such as the 15th annual Festival of Light, which was held in St Elli Shopping centre on 19 November and was attended by almost 900 people, are helping to boost visitor numbers, while plans by the town to develop and establish a Business Improvement District have received widespread support as well as backing from politicians of all parties.

Adjacent to St Elli, East Gate has regenerated five acres of Llanelli town centre, creating a leisure quarter comprising a six-screen cinema, hotel, offices, restaurants and bars. A new regional theatre, Y Ffwrnes, has been developed by Carmarthenshire County Council and provides a 550 seat facility proving attractive to the whole of Carmarthen. Extensive public realm improvements are also planned for the town centre, including Llanelli Waterside, a joint venture with the Welsh Government.