Peel Retail Parks own and manage many of the UK’s leading retail parks, creating stand-out shopping destinations where retailers want to be and customers want to shop. Here, RLI speaks with Mark Whittaker, Property Director of Peel Land & Property about the growth of the business in these challenging times.

As initiators of the retail park concept in the UK, Peel Retail Parks’ strong heritage and unique approach has enabled them to build a successful portfolio that continues to grow and flourish. The company brings together its wealth of expertise and understanding of its customers and local communities to continually evolve its retail parks and deliver real results for its world class retailers. In 2018, Peel Retail Parks reported strong visitor growth at its 10 out of town retail parks across the UK, which is in stark contrast to the backdrop of declining retail across the country. Peel prides itself on creating places where people want to shop and spend quality time with family and friends, and they have been doing this successfully for more than 30 years.

Customer insight is the currency of the brand and they move with the times, understanding what its customers want now and in the future, continually adapting to meet the needs of the next generation. “High street and retail parks footfall dropped for the 13th consecutive month nationally, falling more than 2 per cent in December, according to the British Retail Consortium,” states Mark Whittaker, Property Director at Peel Land & Property (Peel L&P). “Despite this, Peel Retail Parks, part of Peel L&P are proud to report a 24 per cent rise in overall footfall over the last two years across its parks.” Peel Retail Parks, which currently owns and manages retail parks in Barnsley, Blackburn, Bristol, Corby, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Stockport, Sunderland, Trafford and Yeovil has had almost 24 million visits across the entire portfolio throughout the past 12 months. “We are all aware of the significant challenges facing the retail sector in the current market but, from challenge, opportunities arise which is why retail is constantly evolving.

The growth of online retail is changing the way people shop, plus the uncertainty of Brexit is creating caution among the investment market. It’s essential to stay ahead of the changes in order to survive and thrive,” explains Whittaker. Peel L&P has always believed in the out-of-town retail sector and continues to do so today. Despite all the negative media news stories, its retail portfolio continues to prosper with sustained annual growth supported by underlying occupancy levels at over 93 per cent nationally, with several of its parks maintaining 100 per cent occupancy. “Our in-house, experienced and dedicated retail team, consisting of Roger Wheeldon, Leah Taylor, Adam Jolley, Gareth Finch and David Parry, are all engaged with the fast-changing dynamics of the retail market and are constantly exploiting new ideas and initiatives to further enhance the portfolio,” says Whittaker. Peel Retail Parks maintains a strong position despite the raft of various retailers going into CVAs, and they are turning this perceived negative situation into a positive by deploying funds into vacant stores to provide improved and modernised places for customers and retailers.

At the same time, they are obtaining new retail planning consents and working with the expanding and active retailers in the out-of-town market such as Home Bargains, JD Sports, B&M Bargains, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl. “In addition, the team always looks to complement the retail park offering with food and beverage operators such as Starbucks, Greggs and Costa, providing a more varied shopping destination for the customers,” Whittaker explains. Some of Peel Retail Park’s notable ongoing developments include the construction of the new £5.5M, 45,000sq ft Next store at Gloucester Quays Retail Park, which is due to open later this month. Another notable project is the construction of a new retail terrace at Straiton Retail Park in Edinburgh. The £10M modern, contemporary glass-fronted terrace will house up to 11 smaller units ranging from 1,500 to 6,000sq ft, creating a total development extension of 25,500sq ft to the park. Meanwhile in Trafford, the team is forging ahead with the first section of the phase two development of the Trafford Retail Park, which will bring a new £5M Aldi food store and a Starbucks Drive Thru by the first quarter of next year.


“This is exactly the kind of addition we have wanted to deliver at Trafford for some time and it will take the retail park to the next level. It’s not competing with intu Trafford Centre but working with it to provide a more comprehensive retail offering to the wider area,” explains Whittaker. Through proactive asset management and development, working closely with its retail partners and understanding the needs of its valued customers, Peel Retail Parks aims to deliver sustainable returns and long term growth, whilst creating thriving retail destinations.