The opening of Victoria Square in March 2008 will significantly increase the attractiveness of Belfast to shoppers, according to market analysts CACI. Multi Development UK Ltd commissioned a report from CACI to investigate how Belfast's retail offer will alter following the opening of the 800,000-ft² Victoria Square development. CACI have found that Victoria Square "will significantly change the focus of the retail center of Belfast. It is expected to make Belfast into a much more attractive retail venue as a result."
Following the completion of Victoria Square, Belfast's retail catchment is predicted to attract an annual Retail Centre Goods expenditure of £828.9 million (€1.04 bln). The additional retail goods expenditure attracted to Belfast, following the development, represents an overall uplift of 17.2% and characterizes the significant opportunity Victoria Square will provide Belfast and the catchment's residents.
CACI also forecast that Victoria Square will close the gap between Belfast and Dublin with the market potential attracted to Belfast being less than 10% behind Dublin. Belfast has an affluent catchment profile with higher than average densities of some of the most affluent ACORN groups including 'Wealthy Executives' and 'Flourishing Families'. Representing 26.6% of the shopper population, these groups are likely to be attracted by the strong retail offer in Victoria Square.
Victoria Square will bring a number of top brands to Belfast for the first time such as Cruise, Hugo Boss, Reiss, Urban Outfitters, H&M, All Saints and ODEON as well as House of Fraser which will be Northern Ireland's largest department store. These new names will mean a substantial change in the retail offer and provide a strong reason for additional customers to travel to Belfast. More shoppers are likely to come from some of the smaller towns across Northern Ireland and market penetration should increase across the entire catchment area.
When compared against retail centers in Great Britain, Belfast will move up three places, only just behind Edinburgh, Bristol and Croydon in terms of market size, whilst ahead of Cambridge, Cribbs Causeway and Bath. Footfall within Victoria Square is predicted to be strong; at 17.2 million p.a. this would place the scheme 10th when ranked against other shopping centers in major towns and cities across the UK.
Belfast is similar to a number of major cities across Great Britain in terms of overall market size and demographic make up; these include Cardiff, Sheffield and Liverpool in their current form and reflects the significant retail venue Belfast will become. Analysis of these benchmark centers has shown there is a strong opportunity in Belfast for premium retailers an area currently under-served by the current retail offer. This is a key area of retail provision the Victoria Square Shopping Centre is seeking to fulfill.
Belfast has strong levels of consumer expenditure with average spend per household on many retail sectors being higher than the corresponding spend per household in Great Britain. Spend on clothing and footwear categories in Belfast's core catchment is also on average 15.7% higher than in Southern Ireland and 22.4% higher than across Great Britain.