The grand opening of St David's 2

St David's 2, Cardiff opens to the public

Published:  25 November, 2009

After ten years of planning and over £675m investment, St David’s 2 finally opened its doors to shoppers on 22 October. Although technically an expansion of the existing St David’s Centre, SD2 has transformed the city by introducing new brands, quality retail space and an estimated £250m new annual spend.

A centre surrounded by this level of hype ought to open with a bang, and St David’s didn’t disappoint. Fashion shows were set up on The Hayes, performers swung on white ribbons high above the Grand Arcade, and ballerinas roamed through the centre on stilts.

But the entertainment wasn’t the main attraction for shoppers. Around 10,000 people arrived in the first half hour to browse the new stores and restaurants, many of which had never traded before in Wales. The St David’s Partnership, a joint venture between Capital Shopping Centres and Land Securities, has so far managed to entice 25 new brand names to Wales with more to come in the future.

Caroline Kirby, property director at CSC, emphasizes the wide range of retailers offered at the new 1.4m-sq ft St David’s centre. “Up until now, the Welsh shopper has been under-choiced,” she explains. “Not only have we given Wales new aspirational brands like Radley and Links of London, but at the other end of the spectrum are brands like Cult and Pret A Manger, which have never been available here before.”

The fact that Cardiff has lagged behind other cities in terms of retail doesn’t tally with the sheer number of shoppers in the capital. St David’s is predicted to attract around 27 million shoppers over the next year as people from all across Wales flock to the centre. And that’s not including 10 million tourists as well as students.

“The shoppers are here, but the city’s spending potential needed to be unlocked,” says leasing manager Jo Skilton. So how did SD2 persuade so many retailers to make their Welsh debut? “There’s a demand for quality retail space in any major city. In Cardiff, the property on the street is generally quite old and not right for a lot of retailers. But St David’s 2 has provided them with quality space right in the heart of the city,” explains Skilton.

But it’s not simply a case of cramming as many new brands as possible into the centre. The St David’s Partnership focussed a lot of energy on the tenant mix and overall look of the scheme. “A successful shopping centre relies on its retail mix,” stresses Kirby. “We spent a lot of time getting the cluster of retailers right so that every type of shopper will be satisfied.”

The visual impact of the centre depended on the individual retailers. Clothing retailer Cult has fitted out its biggest ever store with eye-catching signage and materials, and the New Look store is furnished with the brand’s latest look. “If you spend £675m on a development, you need high quality shop fits. Brands must have good fits now; it’s far too obvious to the shopper,” adds Skilton.

Despite dire economic circumstances, St David’s 2 is currently 70 per cent let. The new year will see 15 more stores opening, adding to the 100 retailers due to be trading by Christmas. Although it hasn’t been officially announced, a brief stroll around the new mall confirms the imminent arrival of Hollister, the Abercrombie & Fitch spin-off brand, on the upper level.

But the past 12 months have not been kind to retail, and the Partnership has had to work harder than usual to lease out units. If Skilton could turn back the clock, would she delay the project? “I’d honestly do it all over again, even despite the recession. We’ve never had to oversell because everyone already knows about the quality of shopper here. And with stores like Apple and LK Bennett opening, retailers can see the potential for themselves,” she says.

 

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