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West Mids Retail Reels From Debenhams, But In The Suburbs Development Looks Good

Clouds gathering over out-of-town retail? Birmingham's Fort Retail Park

You would hardly say Birmingham's 314K SF Fort Retail Park is struggling: Its long tenant list includes more than 30 of the UK's best known retail names including Wilko, Next and Boots. And yet the loss of Debenhams, which occupied a relatively modest 9.7K SF, comes not long after other big space users Marks & Spencer and BHS packed up and left.

In Wolverhampton, where Debenhams has announced the closure of a 93K SF unit which opened as recently as 2017, it is a double blow. The department store anchored a £35M extension of Benson Elliot's Mander Centre, occupying a three-floor unit carved out of a former Tesco and TJ Hughes outlet. Previously the TJ Hughes unit had been empty for several years, The Wolverhampton Express & Star reported.

Both stores are part of a first wave of 22 store closures announced by Debenhams last week. The names of a further 28 stores will be announced soon.

The closures come as another retail property format shows that it is more than capable of thriving, whatever happens to the in-town and out-of-town mega schemes.

SevenCapital's 9-acre Stirchley Retail Park is now in the planning process, paperwork for which suggests big names are lining up to take space. Close reading of images suggests Aldi and McDonald's could be in the running, Birmingham Live reported.

The official position is that no deals have yet been agreed but that a discount retailer like Aldi or Lidl will sign up, and a drive-thru like McDonald's, Costa or Subway will join them.

The 125K SF suburban scheme is due for completion in 2020, with an estimated capital value of £20M.