Hitch in hunt for key retail tenant

MANAGERS of a major shopping complex in Ipswich are hopeful that a “key” empty unit will soon be taken over, despite hitting a stumbling block.

MANAGERS of a major shopping complex in Ipswich are hopeful that a “key” empty unit will soon be taken over, despite hitting a stumbling block.

One retailer at the Buttermarket centre in Ipswich said he had been considering moving out following the failure to fill the 120,000 sq ft former Allders store site, which has lain empty for nearly a year.

The shopping centre has suffered a drop in footfall of two or three per cent over the past year since the departure of the major retailer.

John Ayres, director of Prezzies Plus, a tenant at the centre, said he had been considering moving out after 13 years because of the knock-on effect on his trade, but was now looking at an offer from the shopping centre.

“The effect has been a gradual grinding down because there has been a gradual decrease in the footfall to such a point as we can't sustain it any longer,” he said.

“The decline in the past year has been absolutely tremendous. It's partly the Allders effect, it's partly the national situation and it's partly this centre has never, ever got the business it should have done with a centre of this size.”

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The Buttermarket has been in negotiation with a major discount department store chain for for some months to take on 110,000 sq ft of the space, with existing tenant TK Maxx, a value store selling clothing and other items, seeking to expand its presence at the centre by taking on 10,000sq ft of the site.

“Negotiations with the retailer who was taking the big part of the space are still ongoing,” said centre manager Colin Roberts. “I'm hopeful the big tenant will come on board.”

Mr Roberts said a deal in principle had been reached with the company some time ago.

“This unfortunately hit somewhat of a stumbling block about two or two and a half weeks ago. I can't go into detail,” he said. “We are still hopeful that the deal will still be done.

“The work that was going ahead in there we have had to put on hold.” But he added: “The company that wanted to come in are very, very keen to come in. We are very keen to have them in, but, unfortunately these issues are pretty huge.”

He pointed out that retail generally nationwide, not just in Ipswich, was struggling at the moment, and footfall in running on a minus, but admitted that getting a tenant for the large unit was very important.

“It's key to the continued success of the centre,” he said. “It's a very, very big one, and we've been working very, very hard to secure a tenant for that unit ever since.

He said they would like “very much” for Prezzies to stay and had made an offer to them to help them continue there.

The revelation that a tenant had been found for the large unit was seen as a major boost for the centre, which was devastated to lose Allders, its biggest and best-known tenant, in March, when the financially-troubled chain went into administration.

Mr Ayres said they had set up a separate online business, which was doing very well, but business at the store had probably suffered a “disastrous” 20% drop in trade.