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Fashion brands race for a place in West End boom



Designer Alexander Wang, who made waves with an H&M launch this week, is opening a store

Laura Chesters

Shop vacancy rates in the West End are at near-record lows, research reveals today — thanks to huge demand from international fashion brands.

Stores are marketed up to two years in advance, while millions are paid purely to secure a lease.

The demand is such that rents continue to rise as the availability of space declines.

A bi-annual shop survey of 18 central London streets by property agent Knight Frank found average vacancy rates had fallen to 2.8 per cent.

Rates have been gradually falling since 2007. The most recent figure is a 25 per cent fall on the previous six months.

The latest examples of deals in the capital include designer Alexander Wang signing up for the Post Office site at 43-44 Albemarle Street.

US brand James Perse plans to open at 30 Dover Street and French designer Balmain is set to have a store on South Audley Street. Darren Yates, partner in Knight Frank’s retail research team, said: “London has bucked the wider economic trend and it has a continuing long-term growth story.

“These low figures compare to 20 to 30 per cent vacancy rates in some towns nationwide. Higher footfall is predicted for the capital with Crossrail and other new developments in the pipeline. The ability for retailers to pay higher rents will increase due to this larger footfall.”

Consulting firm Arup has recently predicted the completion of Crossrail and other new developments could lead to an 18 per cent jump in annual spend in London.

Knight Frank’s report revealed that some streets already have no availability at all, with waiting lists forming for stores.

The competition for space has led to more peripheral streets becoming popular.

Yates explained: “Mayfair is a noteworthy example, with emerging streets such as Conduit Street, Dover Street and Brook Street seeing marked improvements with significant rental growth.”

Other overseas brands due to open stores in central London include Dubai retailer Toy Store, which will open a 27,000 sq ft flagship store in Oxford Street’s West One shopping centre.

In Covent Garden the latest signing is American beauty brand Urban Decay, which is set to open its first British shop there. New York-based online design marketplace Etsy will launch a pop-up shop in the area next month.


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