New South African owners of Grantham’s George Centre are taking action to fill it within two to three years.
The undisclosed family, which bought the centre for £2.8m last April, is scouring the region for prospective tenants and offering deals, including “incentive” rents and short-term leases.
Nigel Thompson, founder of London-based managing agents X Real Estate, admitted the centre was “half-empty” with some unhappy tenants, and blamed a lack of investment and effective management from previous owners.
Now, the new owners who have retail and leisure businesses in South Africa, seek to capitalise on the historic nature of the centre and differentiate it from other retail centres.
Mr Thompson said the nearby Isaac Newton Centre was at the value end of the market, while “we want the George to become the hub of quality, independent shops and cafes”.
Westgate in Grantham had recently improved with independent boutiques and he seeks something similar for the George, which has undergone some refurbishment under its new owners.
He added: “We have been out. We have scoured the local region. We have started a dialogue with retailers in Lincoln, Sleaford and Newark. The first phase is to try and attract some of these names.
“We are offering incentive rentals, we have offered to provide support to businesses, such as very flexible leases with the ability to break clauses. Most retail leases are five to 10 years. We are offering much shorter terms, in some cases less than a year, in order that retailers can try it out. We are also looking at a number of pop-ups for people who have an idea.”
X Real Estate is also talking to existing tenants seeking to upsize their outlets.
Mr Thompson said: “Overall, we see it as a two to three year project. We won’t transform the centre overnight, but we do expect within three years we will be back to full occupation. It’s not a big centre. The market can support that number of retailers.”
Mr Thompson backed plans for designer fashion outlets for Grantham, saying they will bring shoppers to Grantham and not compete with existing traders.
He was more concerned on how South Kesteven District Council seeks to improve the town centre, reporting “very positive” talks on issues like joint-marketing and accepting SKDC could do nothing about one of retail’s greatest challenges- business rates.