Sports retailer Sports Direct acquires Grade II-listed former Marks & Spencer store in Liverpool and will transform it into a 103,000 sq ft retail outlet and health club. Tony McDonough reports
National sports retailer Sports Direct has acquired the former Marks & Spencer (M&S) store in Church Street in Liverpool and will transform it into a 103,000 sq ft sportswear store and gym.
M&S vacated the Grade II-listed Compton House in August 2023 and moved into the former Debenhams outlet in Liverpool ONE where it now operates a 70,000 sq ft outlet. It had been there since 1930.
The arrival of Sports Direct will be good news for Church Street which remains the city centre’s premier shopping street. M&S’s departure left a big hole and came around the same time as The Vintage Store closed its outlet just opposite.
It is believed the fit-out of Compton House by Sports Direct will take around 18 months. It is not clear what will happen to its Liverpool ONE outlet. Sports Direct is owned by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group.
Frasers head of acquisitions James France told LBN: “We are pleased to confirm that we have acquired Compton House located on Liverpool’s renowned Church Street.
“We are big believers in physical retail and this acquisition marks an exciting time for the group as we continue to expand our store portfolio across the UK and Europe.
“As the UK’s leading destination for sportswear, we are looking forward to bringing Liverpool customers a next-generation sports retail experience with the opening of a 70,000 sq ft Sports Direct flagship store. Subject to approval, Everlast Gyms will also open a 23,000 sq. ft hybrid gym in the space.”
In September 2023, M&S told LBN it was keen to find a new use for the building “as soon as possible”. It added: “We are working quickly to bring Compton House back into use as soon as possible,” the company said.
Figures released by Liverpool BID Company in June 2023 revealed just 5.4% of retail units in Liverpool city centre were empty – less than half the national average of 11%. The BID covers Liverpool city centre’s retail district with the exception of Liverpool ONE.
Speaking on Wednesday, Jennina O’Neill is chair of the BID’s Retail and Leisure board, and centre manager at Metquarter, said: “We knew that Compton House wouldn’t stay empty for long and Sports Direct will bring a great deal of footfall to Church Street and will add to that mixed retail experience in the heart of the city centre.
“Compton House is a flagship building in Liverpool city centre and any plans for it must match the ambition of the stunning build, so we are delighted to see that Frasers Group, as they announce the lease, have talked about their plans for a “next generation” experience.
“Retail theatre is a major part of the modern shopping experience and we know that Sports Direct delivers that around the globe, so we’re excited to see what they bring for shoppers on Church Street.
“We’re also looking forward to seeing how their plans will impact the streets alongside Compton House and onto Williamson Square as the right development can be transformative for the city centre.”
Liverpool’s recent record at filling big spaces vacated by retail tenants is actually pretty good. There were fears for the future of the former BHS store in Lord Street when the chain collapsed in 2016. However, it was swiftly filled by Swedish fashion brand H&M.
Similarly, when US retailer Forever 21 closed its large outlet on the corner of Church Street and Whitechapel, it was filled by fashion chain Next. In turn, Next’s former Church Street home is now occupied by sports retailer Decathlon.
Completed in 1867, Compton House stands on the site of a former building by the same name that was destroyed by a fire in 1865. It was owned by Plymouth-born brothers William and James Reddecliffe Jeffrey and contained a clothiers and a drapers.
Once rebuilt in 1867 Compton House was occupied by the same business. However, this closed in March 1871. For two years it remained empty before being repurposed as a hotel with retail outlets including a drapers, hosiery and hatters on the ground floor.
Thanks to Liverpool being a major port for Transatlantic steamers the hotel became popular with American tourists. But as the shipping trade declined the hotel eventually closed. M&S moved into the building in 1930.