Liverpool’s Albert Dock launches drive to attract independent and start-up retailers

Aberdeen Asset Management, which paid £42.75m for the leasehold interest of the historic site in January last year, wants to refresh the offer at the dock which attracts more than 6m visitors a year. Tony McDonough reports.

More than 6m people visit Albert Dock every year but just 20% come from within the Liverpool city region

Start-up and fledgling retailers are to be offered space in Liverpool’s Albert Dock complex as part of a revamp of the famous leisure and tourist attraction.

Aberdeen Asset Management, which paid £42.75m for the leasehold interest of the historic site in January last year, wants to refresh the offer at the dock which attracts more than 6m visitors a year.

It is working in partnership with the Albert Dock Company, trading as Gower Street Estates, which retains the freehold of the 19th century complex.

The dock, built in the 1840s, was saved from dereliction by previous owner Arrowcroft in the early 1980s and it boasts the largest collection of Grade I-listed buildings in the country.

Aberdeen says it wants to “create a sense of community” at the dock by attracting more quirky, independent retailers.

It also wants to reconfigure the units so the food and drink outlets are interspersed with shops rather than all clustered together.

Despite its growing popularity with visitors, from both the UK and overseas, thanks to events such as the River Festival and the Pirate Festival, research by the Albert Dock Company reveals that just 20% of those visitors come from within the Liverpool city region,.

The aim of the new drive is to increase that local footfall.

Events such as the Pirate Festival help the Albert Dock attract millions of visitors each year. Picture by Tony McDonough

Richard Wilson, asset manager for the dock, told YBNews that Aberdeen wanted to “create interesting spaces for fledgling businesses to grow”.

He added: “We will be offering shorter leases for local entrepreneurs and we can be flexible to their needs.

“We want to work with the colleges, universities and the local community to encourage people to come and try out their ideas.

“Eventually we want to actually set aside units for evolving retailers and create a sense of community.”

On the subjects of rents, traditionally high at the dock, Mr Wilson said any deals would still have to be on a commercial footing but insisted they would “sensitive” to issues facing smaller businesses.

One local firm has already taken advantage of this new strategy. Liverpool-based The Leather Satchel Company has recently opened a pop-up shop on the dock.

Mr Wilson added that the outlet has “proved to be so successful we are in discussion with them about opening their first flagship store”.

Richard Wilson, asset manager for the Albert Dock in Liverpool

The freehold space controlled by Aberdeen comprises around 400,000 sq ft of both commercial and residential property, including hotels, shops and museums, such as The Beatles Story.

More than a decade ago Albert Dock faced uncertain times as the original strategy to attract mainstream retailers ran out of steam, amid high rents and low footfall.

Since refocusing its offer as a leisure destination the dock has enjoyed huge success with footfall rising year after year. The opening of the nearby ECHO Arena and BT Convention Centre also proved to be a major boost.

And the opening of Liverpool One in 2008 offered a direct link with the main city centre.

Aberdeen will be presenting more details of the reconfiguration of the retail units to city planners and the local market over the next few weeks.

Plans include double-height glazed windows to allow in more light and enabling double-height retail units along The Colonnades.

Sue Grindrod, chief executive of the Albert Dock Company, said: “We are very excited to see this vision unfold and see it realised as part of the longer term plans for the dock.”

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