Yorkshire retail park thriving thanks to strategic location and support for independents

Battered by rising overheads and competition from ecommerce, it’s no secret that the traditional British High Street is in steep decline. Retail parks tend to fare slightly better and many saw an increase in footfall during the last major peak shopping period. But empty units are still blighting many, as shoppers grapple with the ongoing cost of living crisis.

However, thanks to an innovative business model and its strategic location, one retail park in South Yorkshire is thriving. Confirming the findings of a report by Manchester Metropolitan University, the mixture of independents and national brands at the Onyx Retail Park continues to keep the site in demand with shoppers from across the region.

Bucking the trend commonly seen around the country, where large out-of-town retail parks drown out independents with big brand retailers, small local businesses are thriving at the site in Wath-Upon-Dearne. Popular food chains including Greggs and Domino’s Pizza are represented alongside local barbers The Groom Room and independent café Coffee Street. Shoppers at Onyx have also welcomed the recent addition of a charity shop, supporting the nearby Rotherham Hospice.

Chartered Surveyor Andrew Miller, who worked alongside Onward Holdings to secure the new letting commented “This is an appealing location for companies both big and small and Onyx now has just one remaining unit available. The site continues to attract a diverse range of businesses and I look forward to welcoming the next one.”

By presenting shoppers with a mixture of big names and local independent stores, visitors to Onyx are offered ample choice as to where they want to shop and eat. Something that is not usually the case with large retail parks, which are typically dominated by national brands. However, with several of the UK’s best-loved national retailers either closing branches or going out of business altogether, it’s a model that simply isn’t going to be sustainable in the long-term.

Operated by Onward Holdings Ltd, the Onyx Retail Park is a prime retail space within easy reach of the 94,000 local residents living within a 10-minute journey from the site. The location of Onyx has a big part to play in its success, given its proximity to busy Manvers Way, which receives over 18,000 passing vehicles each weekday, according to figures provided by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The footfall created from this high volume of passing trade provides a strong customer base to the site, making it an ideal location for a wide variety of outlets.

Plentiful free parking at retail parks such as Onyx is another major pull for shoppers, given how difficult this is to find in the majority of town centres. Their out-of-town locations mean that shoppers can avoid the hassle of town centre traffic. However, the fact that retail parks are designed primarily for customers who drive leaves non-drivers at a disadvantage in terms of accessibility.

Onyx is strategically positioned to cater for all in this respect, being located on a bus route and close to a new development of more than 1,000 homes, as well as the RSPB’s Old Moor nature reserve which attracts over 100,000 visitors per year. As a result, Onyx is able to attract a larger number of shoppers and the site also benefits from nearby electric vehicle charging, further boosting its appeal.

Neil Storey, Director of Onward Holdings which manages the site commented: “Our aim is to provide something for everyone at Onyx. Its location, accessibility and range of national and independent retailers give it a broad appeal. Local businesses can thrive and their employees do not have to worry about being able to find free parking. It’s a model we believe works brilliantly and we look forward to seeing where the future of Onyx takes us.”