LONDON — While 2022 is shaping up as another year of COVID-19 uncertainty, with inflation, higher interest rates and income taxes putting new stress on consumers, retailers and brand owners are pressing ahead with opening plans and taking the long view.
Over the next five years, the West End alone will benefit from 5 billion pounds in capital investment across 22 existing and new West End developments, while more than 220 million pounds will be spent on open public spaces in the area, which takes in Mayfair, Soho and the streets around Oxford and Piccadilly Circus.
The developments will focus on providing a more diversified and immersive experience, with some 76 percent of the West End developments set to be mixed-use.
For example, there are plans to turn Cavendish Square near Oxford Circus into a health and well-being destination, while the almost-completed Outernet London, atop Tottenham Court Road station, will offer a 2,000-person capacity music venue, a gallery, broadcasting and media facilities, a hotel, bars and restaurants.
The idea is to prepare for better times ahead when international travel picks up again and local consumers are more in the mood to hit the streets and start spending time in physical spaces.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive officer of New West End Company, which represents some 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners around Bond, Oxford and Regent streets, believes the worst is behind London retail and is looking forward to the second half of 2022, when retail and leisure sales are set to pick up, with 7 billion pounds forecast, compared to 5 billion pounds this year.
Here, a look at some key developments and openings expected in 2022 and beyond.
Work will begin on transforming one of London’s most famous retail spaces on Oxford Circus into central London’s first Ikea showroom. Customers will be able to browse sample rooms, plan their own spaces, and click-and-collect. The Swedish furniture giant paid 378 million pounds for the leasehold of the building that had housed Topshop, the former jewel in the crown of Sir Philip Green’s now-defunct Arcadia empire, since 1994.
Three floors of the building, which spans 239,000 square feet over seven floors, will be turned into an Ikea store due to open in the second half of 2023. Ikea is thought to have elbowed out rival bidders including Stefan Persson of H&M, and Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group, the owner of Sports Direct and House of Fraser. The sale of the flagship on Oxford Street will go toward settling the 312 million-pound mortgage taken out on the building in 2019, with roughly 40 million pounds expected to go to Arcadia’s pension fund.
Fast Retailing Co. has snapped up a prime corner location on Regent Street for the Uniqlo and Theory brands. The interconnected stores are set to open in the spring at 101-113 Regent Street, on the corner of Vigo Street in what was, until recently, the Superdry flagship.
The space will span three floors, with Uniqlo on the lower ground, ground and first floors, and Theory on the ground floor. The space covers 20,500 square feet and marks the first time that Uniqlo and Theory will occupy the same store in the U.K. The location is across the street from Uniqlo’s Regent Street store (which will close) and the brand also has a flagship on Oxford Street, a 10-minute walk away.
Buoyed by a multimillion-dollar investment from General Atlantic in 2020, Gymshark is opening its first physical stand-alone store in the former J. Crew space at 165 Regent Street. The 18,000-square-foot space will open over the summer and include workout studios. The unit will be located just a short walk away from rivals Lululemon and Nike Town.
J. Crew had landed at that corner site with a bang in 2013, but the brand’s popularity in the U.K. rapidly waned: Londoners had initially welcomed the six J. Crew stores but the honeymoon didn’t last once they saw the sticker prices, which were considerably higher than what they were used to paying on shopping trips to the U.S. In 2020, J. Crew shuttered all of its stores in the U.K., a little over a week after the company emerged from bankruptcy in the U.S.
Gucci and Balenciaga
The Italian luxury brand will be moving from its longtime corner site on Old Bond Street to 144-146 New Bond Street. It is expected to take possession of the 16,000-square-foot space, which currently houses the Halcyon Gallery, in fall 2022. Trophaeum Asset Management, which owns most of Albemarle Street, other properties on New Bond Street and chunks of prime space around London, purchased the retail block in February 2020 from a firm controlled by the banker Joseph Safra.
Another Kering brand, Balenciaga, is also set to open on New Bond this year, although there are some who can’t bear to say farewell to the bright green hoarding that’s been up for months. The hoarding features larger-than-life Balenciaga models in hoodies and oversize coats, and the eye-searing shade of green certainly brightens up the corner site, formerly occupied by shoe brand Russell & Bromley.
Gucci’s and Balenciaga’s moves to New Bond signal a bigger shift that’s happening on the historic shopping street, which measures half a mile and links Piccadilly with Oxford Street. Megabrands are migrating northward to New Bond as the big luxury groups, and property companies, snap up real estate on the Oxford Street end of New Bond. That end of the street is about to get buzzier, too, with the inauguration of the major train and underground network Crossrail in early 2022, and the upcoming opening of the Mandarin Oriental hotel at Hanover Square.
Pronovias is on the move and ready to open a larger New Bond Street flagship in the wake of a new, 10-year licensing deal with Vera Wang. The Barcelona-based Pronovias began manufacturing, distributing and marketing Vera Wang Bride in select stores and wholesale accounts globally in October, and needed more space to display Vera Wang Bride, which is priced about 60 percent lower than Wang’s couture wedding gowns and is intended to reach a broader and international customer base.
Pronovias plans to move from its spot at 94 New Bond Street to 70-71 New Bond Street, a property owned by GPE, formerly known as Great Portland Estates, in the spring. Vera Wang Bride will be positioned in the front of the Pronovias stores on black racks. The Vera Wang Bride dresses will be made to order, and the new and bigger space will mean that brides will have room to try on the samples and have the fittings done. London is one of a few cities, including Madrid, New York, Paris and Milan, where the collection will be available.