Retail chiefs welcome revival of former M&S Liverpool store

Compton House (Google Street View)

Retailers have welcomed the acquisition of Liverpool’s former M&S store by national chain Sports Direct.

The high street giant traded from Grade II-listed Compton House since 1928, but closed the store in August last year, ahead of relocating to new premises nearby in the former Debenhams store in Liverpool One, which shut in 2021.

Retail sources in the city last September speculated that the Church Street site would be a new home for a residential development on the upper floors, and a major sports retailer on the ground floor.

Today (January 24) Frasers Group, parent of the Sports Direct brand, confirmed it has acquired the site from M&S for an undisclosed sum.

James France, Frasers Group Head of Acquisitions, said: “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 featuring the world’s biggest sports brands.

“Subject to approval, Everlast Gyms will also open a 23,000 sq ft hybrid gym in the space.”

Sports Direct’s main Liverpool site is currently situated in Liverpool One.

News of a new lease of life for Compton House was welcomed by Jennina O’Neill, chair of Liverpool BID’s Retail and Leisure Board, and centre manager at Metquarter.

She 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.”

She added: “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.”

When the Liverpool One retail site opened in 2008, there were fears it would lead to a huge decline in footfall for the city’s then main retail thoroughfares, Church Street and Lord Street.

But in an interview with last September, Liverpool One Estate director, Iain Finlayson, said footfall for the two main streets was the highest it has ever been.

Compton House is noted as being one of the first purpose-built department stores in Europe.

Rebuilt in 1867 after a fire destroyed the original building two year previously, Compton House was, at the time, reputed to be the world’s biggest store with five floors. It has also previously operated as an hotel.

M&S carried out a multimillion-pound refurbishment of the site in 2009.