Northampton retail park management reveals businesses interested in taking over empty units

Plan to replace Mothercare at St James Retail Park and Toys R Us will get a makeover before potential changes to site

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:45 am

There is already interest from retailers in taking over a now-empty unit at a Northampton retail park, according to the management.

St James Retail Park saw Mothercare close earlier this month, prompting lots of suggestions online for what could replace the shop with the ex-Toys R Us unit still vacant almost two years after shutting.

But DTZ Investors told the Chronicle & Echo a number of businesses are keen to move into the Towcester Road shopping park and they are looking at all options for filling Toys R Us.

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St James Retail Park. Photo: Google
St James Retail Park. Photo: Google

“What has been quite good about St James Retail Park is every time we have had a vacancy we have been able to fill it,” a spokesman for the asset management firm said.

“Sometimes it has not been overnight or as quick as we would like it to be but we have been successful in filling the empty units.”

DTZ Investors could not reveal any specific retailers interested in the old Mothercare unit but hoped to get it replaced as soon as possible now the administrators have handed the space back.

The spokesman said that once Mothercare is replaced, attentions will turn to the old Toys R Us unit.

Replacement suggestions for the 42,671sqft building from readers ranged from dividing the large spaces into smaller shops to a supermarket to some sort of leisure attraction.

Everyone agreed that something needs to be done with the empty shops which have become an eyesore, with some worried they could be demolished.

“Something needs to happen, it’s been empty for ages and makes that whole area look sad,” a user posted.

Work will be undertaken to improve its appearance having been shut since March 2018, the DTZ Investors spokesman said.

But they admitted it has been difficult to fill it with such a large amount of space and a change in the retail industry away from bigger shops with higher business rates.

“It is more challenging as there are few units that are in excess of 40,000 sqft and there is a dearth in retailers who want to operate a unit of that size,” the spokesman said.

“We are looking at a number of options for that unit, whether we can make it a smaller division for occupiers, that might be a sensible approach, but that requires planning permission.”

The spokesman said leisure attractions have been popular in the schemes DTZ is involved in but they would also need ‘change of use’ planning permission and its commercial viability would be taken into account.

“At the end of the day, not in this park, but in our parks across the country as we’re open to different options and different ideas as the retail landscape changes,” he said.

“But as we are a pension fund we need to be sensible with how we invest our money so income is key and where that income comes from.”

Mothercare followed Toys R Us, Next, Comet and BHS in closing its branches on the Towcester Road shopping park in the last eight years, while The Range opened in April 2019.

The DTZ Investors spokesman admitted it has been a testing period for the retail industry, which has affected them and the rest of Northampton.

“The retail market has been tough of late and the market has changed but we’re doing well and I’m confident we can fill the empty units,” he said.