Sovereign Centre rent prices higher than in Bristol city centre
PUBLISHED: 18:30 11 April 2019
Renting a unit at Weston's Sovereign Shopping Centre can be more expensive than opening a store in central Bristol.
The shopping centre was bought by North Somerset Council last summer in a multi-million-pound deal in a bid to raise cash and improve the High Street, but the Mercury has learned similar retail properties in the city – where there is greater footfall – can be cheaper to rent.
The authority hopes to generate more than £1million profit from the investment each year, which will be invested in the community.
But several units are vacant amid a difficult retail market, meaning North Somerset is missing out on tens of thousands of pounds a year which could be invested into children’s services and adult social care.
Property consultant Rowley Hughes Thompson are advertising the vacancies on its website, with one unit, measuring 1,054 sq.ft, available for £42,500 per year.
Comparatively, a larger unit at The Galleries Shopping Centre in Bristol, which on average is visited by 200,000 shoppers a week, measuring 1,143 sq.ft is available for the same price – making it cheaper per square foot.
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An 855 sq.ft shop at the same site is available for £25,500 per year.
The annual sum from the vacant units at the Sovereign Shopping Centre being marketed by Rowley Hughes Thompson is £182,000.
The council declined to comment on the rent charges as it deemed the information ‘commercially sensitive’, but senior figures have repeatedly insisted the ‘numbers stack up’ and the centre was ‘a very good purchase’, which will deliver £1million each year.
Last month the Mercury revealed six shop leases had already expired and occupiers were trading without a long-term agreement, with several more due to lapse by the end of 2019.
And Marks & Spencer’s decision to close its shop, which links to the shopping centre, on April 27 has heightened fears for the future of retail in Weston town centre.
The council hopes to arrest the downturn after bidding for £10million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, with plans to improve visitors’ experiences in the town centre.
Its spokesman said: “Shopping habits are starting to change, as shoppers are looking more towards a visitor experience than a purely retail one.”