Westwood Cross is due to announce new brands coming to the site soon, say centre bosses.
The shopping centre has a number of empty, and soon to be vacant, units following the closure of Wilko this month and impending shutdowns of Clarks shoe store and Iconic jewellery shop.
Clarks shoes is due to shut before the end of the year.
A Clarks spokesperson said: ““Clarks confirms its store at Westwood Cross, Thanet, will close in late 2023.
“We have a strong duty of care to all our employees, and we are working closely with the store team as they now go through a period of consultation.
“Customers can continue to shop from our full range of products online and at our nearby Clarks stores in Deal and Canterbury.”
New businesses to recently move in include Just Fitness at the former DW site and the Westwood Dog Park. The flagship property vacated by Debenhams is earmarked to become a leisure-based venue for Hollywood Bowl and a number of restaurant outlets.
A Hollywood Bowl spokesperson previously said the site was expected to open this autumn.
There is now a planning application from owner LS Thanet asking for an alteration to allow for smaller retail spaces inside the unit, which is currently under consideration by Thanet council.
A spokesperson for Westwood Cross said: ““We’re always looking for ways to bring more variety to Westwood Cross and improve the experience of our visitors.
“We recently welcomed Just Fitness and are working hard to bring even more brands to the centre, which we’ll be able to announce soon. We’re confident we will have some exciting openings in the not too distant future.”
Despite the loss of Wilko and impending closures, site owner Land Securities says there is a clear consumer demand for sites with a mixture of retail, leisure and hospitality.
In the company’s annual report for 2023, it says: “The retail market has experienced a number of significant changes in recent years including the material increase in online retail and the change in consumer habits caused by the pandemic.
“The current economic environment is also a challenge, with retailers facing higher costs due to inflation, and consumer disposable income facing pressure from higher energy and food costs, and higher interest rates.
“It is clear there remains too much physical retail space in the UK: perhaps up to 25% of this space will be converted to alternative uses such as leisure or residential space. But physical retail is not dead. The best space is thriving.
“There is clear consumer demand for shopping centres with an attractive mix of retail, leisure and hospitality, but all these elements must be present for shopping centres to thrive. And brand partners with omnichannel strategies are looking for the right space to support their online businesses.
“ One other significant dramatic change in recent years is the cost of physical spaces compared with online retailing. Physical retail sales have recovered to pre-Covid levels, whereas rents are still c.35% below their 2017 peak. In addition, the latest rates review came into effect in April this year and this has reduced the rates in retail assets by c.30%.
“At the same time, the costs of marketing and delivery for online retail have increased significantly over the same period. The effect of all these trends is an increase in demand from retailers for physical space in high-quality retail destinations.”
Westwood Cross, which has been given a market value of between £50m-£100m, has 53 businesses across its entire site which range from the Travelodge, Vue cinema and food outlets to fashion, phone, jewellery and other outlets, the McDonalds and Costa sites and the gym, as well as parking for 1,500 vehicles.
Westwood Cross is built on the site of the former Haine Hospital, which closed in October 1986, its remaining patients were transferred to other hospitals across the Isle of Thanet. The hospital complex lay abandoned and derelict until 2002 when the site was finally sold and development of the Westwood Cross shopping centre began.
The £100m shopping centre project opened in June 2005 with Debenhams and M&S as the anchor stores. It welcomed nearly 40,000 visitors on its first day of trade. In 2008 permission was given for expansion to include leisure and gambling facilities.
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