The Bud Bigallows high street bar, a large and prominent unit, was yet another victim of the recession when it fell into administration and closed its doors. It took four years of marketing but this recent deal demonstrates the turning tide in confidence and market activity, felt for a couple of years in the south east, now finally warming this corner of the market.
For primary locations like Newcastle and Leeds, steady signs of growth have been evident two years but that hasn’t translated to secondary towns like Sunderland, Wakefield and Huddersfield.
Talking to nightclub operators, they're particularly keen on ‘The Weekend Millionaires’, this idea of The Big Night Out, where instead of people going out the same number of times and spending less, people are going out less often but making it more of an occasion. It’s kept the big cities, the real magnets, booming and that's why there's been continued growth.
However, as operators clamour for primary locations, the saturation of the market is creating a real turning point. The difficulty in finding sites, combined with paying a premium for them, means many are beginning to turn to previously overlooked towns and the potential they have. For locally-based entrepreneurs who will find it harder to compete in city centres, where landlords are looking for proven records and covenant, this is also the way they can cut the cloth in the market.
The Bigallows unit is a prime example insofar as not too long ago it was believed that the attractive customer base in Sunderland or Durham would choose Newcastle for their nights out. Now, operators feel they can tempt people to stay rather than make that journey. It’s a significant step and, while we're yet to see whether this is replicated everywhere, it’s representative of change.
It’s a bit like London buses. All in all, you'd have to say the time is right to be looking at secondary cities.
In terms of what’s happening at the moment, Huddersfield is a very active currently. We've done a couple of deals lately, including three units on a street that has been struggling for a few years. Turtle Bay have secured one of them and another two are generating enormous interest. It’s a bit like London buses.
All in all, you'd have to say the time is right to be looking at secondary cities. If you step back and look at a picture on a quarterly period you can definitely see the peaking of the big centres beginning to stimulate the rest of the Northern market.