Retail and leisure park secures 50,000+ sq ft of lettings as trade recovers

Middlebrook Retail Park

A range of exciting new and well-established brands are to re-open for business after a flurry of first ever leasing and renewal deals at Orbit’s Middlebrook Retail & Leisure Park in Bolton.

The commercial landlords confirmed that 54,526 sq ft had been let in the first half of 2021 in a strong show of retail confidence on the park, aimed at serving a fast-returning consumer looking for great shopping and leisure experiences.

In a bounce back thanks to its positioning, demographics, outdoor environment and 3,000 free car parking spaces, Middlebrook is now reaching pre-pandemic visitor numbers again. At its peak it attracted 12.5m visitors a year.

Decathlon is a significant new tenant taking 22,174 sq ft. The pioneering health and sports retailer, with more than 70 years in the market, will move from Bolton Shopping Park on Trinity Street to take advantage of the growing footfall.

Accrington-based Bensons for Beds has renewed its lease on a 10,303 sq ft retail space on the park. Bensons is an established draw with its strong product range and market presence and has been a tenant on the park since 2016.

It is joined by Furniture Village, which has also renewed its 10,230 sq ft site. Over 30 years in the market the brand is still family owned and Britain’s largest independent furniture retailer with 50 stores nationwide.

Popular Mexican and Italian restaurant chains Chiquito and Bella Italia have also renewed at 4,000 and 3,819 sq ft, respectively. Chiquito is The Original Mexican Grill & Bar, part of The Restaurant Group and its Middlebrook relaunch follows a series of re-openings for the brand since August last year.

Part of the Casual Dining Group, Bella Italia, is a chain of more than 90 restaurants UK-wide offering meals inspired by Italian cuisine.

Orbit has also attracted interest from a couple of new names in the sector, burger restaurant The Confessional and dessert takeaway brand Cakeaway.

Described as a ‘burger joint with a church-inspired twist’ The Confessional has taken 3,000 sq ft on the park, creating 20 jobs. It brings an imaginative fast food offer, including the Apocalypse and Damnation Burgers, to a new Bolton ‘congregation’.

Cakeaway offers celebration cakes, gift cakes, platters and seasonal sweet treats, all to take away, and has taken 1,000 sq ft.

Mark Hanna, senior retail leasing surveyor at Orbit Developments, said the uplift was positive news for the park: “There has been significant interest in restaurant unit lettings again as we have started to emerge from the pandemic. It’s been a turbulent time for the sector and the wider retail market as a whole and we have worked hard to assist and accommodate businesses wherever we can.”

Open throughout COVID, Middlebrook’s centre management team kept customers stocked with essentials and put a detailed operation into place to allow all stores, where possible, to trade and provided a safe and secure environment for all. Outside seating areas at restaurants were installed and extended to help retailers claw back trade from lockdown periods.

Centre manager, Robert Hallworth, said: “As restrictions have lifted, we have seen very strong footfall and sales throughout the stores and a quicker than expected return in consumer confidence.”

Orbit’s Middlebrook Retail & Business Park is the largest integrated and sustainable employment, leisure, sports and retail scheme in the UK. It retains the top spot in the ‘Top Retail Parks’ table in the latest sector review ‘Definitive Guide to Retail and Leisure Parks’ by Trevor Wood Associates, a position it has held since 2012.

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