When Debenhams in Liverpool closed for the final time in May 2021 it left Liverpool ONE owner Grosvenor with a gaping 180,000 sq ft hole – now the transformed space is driving footfall at the complex. Tony McDonough reports
Leisure venue Gravity MAX and retailer Marks & Spencer are being credited with helping to drive a big rise in footfall at Liverpool ONE.
Both brands opened in the former Debenhams store at the Grosvenor-operated complex in August and the period since has coincided with a 7.9% rise in footfall at Liverpool ONE.
It represents a remarkable turnaround for the property which closed as a department store in May 2021. This followed the collapse of the Debenhams chain (the brand has survived online).
Grosvenor was left with a 180,000 sq ft hole to fill. When Liverpool ONE opened in 2008 Debenhams, along with John Lewis at the other end of South John Street, was an anchor tenant for the £1bn development.
By late 2021 there were reports of a leisure venue opening in the building. Those reports came true and the £10m Gravity MAX venue finally opened its doors this year. It has a capacity of 2,500 people and is expected to attract 700,000 visitors a year.
It comprises four bars and a food hall, a multi-level e-karting track, augmented reality (AR) bowling, 18-hole Tech Street Golf, Hologate VR, immersive Gamebox, esports arena, batting cages and Liverpool’s largest pool hall.
Shortly afterwards, Marks and Spencer opened its new outlet at Liverpool ONE, relocating from Compton House in nearby Church Street. It had traded from the 350,000 sq ft Grade II-listed building for almost a century. It remains vacant.
Liverpool’s ONE’s restaurant terrace, facing Chavasse Park, has also seen a 9.6% uplift in sales since the two outlets opened.
Grosvenor says 43% of Gravity MAX’s customers combine their visit with shopping elsewhere in Liverpool ONE.
M&S is playing an equally important role, attracting significantly greater numbers of visitors from the primary catchment than Liverpool ONE’s benchmark (40% versus 31%).
Chris Jukes, Grosvenor’s director of Liverpool ONE, said: “Our active asset management ensures visitors will always find Liverpool ONE a great place to visit, shop and socialise.
“We endeavour to be ahead of the curve, anticipating consumers’ needs and wants, and the increased footfall and sales data bear this out.
“Gravity MAX and M&S opening at Liverpool ONE has had a huge impact, benefitting all of our occupiers and those who have come to visit since August.”
Michael Harrison, co-founder and chief growth officer at Gravity, added: “Our Liverpool ONE Gravity MAX flagship is transforming our business.
“Its performance has been consistently significantly ahead of our targets from day one. We were encouraged by Grosvenor to be bold, and as such, our confidence is being more than rewarded. Liverpool ONE is the new template for our business.”
M&S occupies 70,000 sq ft of trading space and offers shoppers a market-style food hall, new clothing, home and beauty departments, and the first ever new-look M&S Coffee Shop.