LONDON — With Mayfair bursting at its silken seams as fashion and luxury retailers fight for premium space around Bond and Mount Streets, once down-and-out patches of central London are taking on a fresh appeal.
For decades, the businesses inhabiting the tourist-jammed, traffic-clogged streets around Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square haven’t exactly been of the high-end variety: Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Aberdeen Steak House, Planet Hollywood, and countless cheap souvenir shops have been neighborhood fixtures.
Adrian Joffe, chief executive officer of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market, told WWD that Dover Street Market will be “relocating to Haymarket” at the end of 2015. He declined to give further details.
Joffe’s confirmation followed a story in London’s Property Week that said Dover Street Market had signed a 20-year deal to take over 33,000 square feet of the 36,500-square-foot building at 18-22 Haymarket.
Dover Street Market’s planned move from Mayfair to Burberry’s former headquarters on Haymarket is just one sign of the transformation that Piccadilly Circus — and its environs — are undergoing. Gritty entertainment and tourist land is poised to blossom into a high–end retail and lifestyle paradise.
The Crown Estate, the property company that belongs to the reigning British monarch, Elizabeth II, has been investing heavily in the neighborhood around Piccadilly and Regent Street — and in St. James’s in particular — with the aim of transforming much of the area into a high-end lifestyle hub. It is investing upwards of 500 million pounds, or $783 million, in the neighborhood, and is two years into a ten-year rejuvenation strategy. One of the latest phases in its ongoing project is St. James’s Market, which backs onto Haymarket.
“We are delighted that Dover Street Market is moving to Haymarket,” said Anthea Harries, portfolio manager, St. James’s, Crown Estate. “It is not our building — but we understand that our investment in the area was a big factor on this letting.”
The Crown Estate plans to fill 30,000 square feet of the St. James’s Market area with international retailers — no chain stores allowed — and a new residential project. It has also been moving quickly to spiff up Regent Street St. James’s, the thoroughfare that runs parallel to Haymarket.
Over the summer, it reduced the traffic lanes to two from four, and widened the pavements in an effort to create promenades. In September, it changed the name to “Regent Street St. James’s” from “Lower Regent Street” with a major public ceremony.
And while Dover Street Market may be moving into what promises to be a hot new area, industry sources say no one is weeping for Dover Street.
Since Dover Street Market opened a decade ago, the Mayfair street has evolved into a fashion retail hub, with brands including Acne Studios, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin and Wolf & Badger. The celebrity and oligarch watering hole, The Arts Club, is also located on the street. Most recently, Victoria Beckham opened her first flagship on Dover, a 6,040-square-foot space that spans three floors and was designed by the architect Farshid Moussavi.
Knight Frank recently issued a report on the state of central London retail — and it’s sizzling. The firm said average vacancy rates in central London overall have fallen to under 3 percent, with retail rents and capital values continuing to grow.
“Competition for prime space is fierce, and demand continues to spread to locations previously considered ‘peripheral,’” Knight Frank said. “Mayfair is a noteworthy example, with emerging streets such as Conduit Street, Dover Street and Brook Street seeing marked improvements to tenant mix, which has resulted in significant rental growth.”
Not surprisingly, the news of Dover Street Market’s exit has property companies and estate agents in the area hopping with anticipation about possible future tenants.
“Pre-Victoria Beckham and Alexander Wang [which is opening on nearby Albemarle Street, as reported] Dover Street Market’s move could have been a very significant loss for the area west of Bond Street,” said a property source with knowledge of the area. “But there are now ‘leader brands’ anchoring the grid, and there does not seem to be sufficient high-end retail space available for luxury appetites,” the source added.
Another real estate source, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “The Dover Street Market space is capable of being subleased floor by floor, and could suit the more-emerging brands if a ‘maison-style’ operation were ever to go out of vogue — though there are no signs of that yet.”