The centre, which is Northern Ireland’s largest ever retail-led commercial development, has generated total sales of £2bn over the past decade and today employs almost 2,500 staff – 116 of whom have worked at Victoria Square since day one.
The centre has contributed around £7.5m in rates every year since opening – a total of more than £75m which has gone into the city and wider economy.
With over 800,000sq ft of retail space, the construction of Victoria Square extended the amount of retail space in the city centre by almost one third in 2008 and heralded a new dawn for retail in Northern Ireland, according to Centre Manager Michelle Greeves.
“Retail is a major employer for Belfast and Northern Ireland, with around 15 per cent of the workforce employed in the retail sector. We are proud that Victoria Square has become the linchpin of the city’s retail proposition, a significant employer and a major contributor to the economy through rates and our wider supply chain,” she said.
“What shoppers want today, both in terms of new brands and customer experience, wasn’t available in Belfast before the centre was built in 2008. But the quality of Victoria Square has enabled us to attract new brands to Belfast for the first time, such as House of Fraser, Apple, Hollister, Michael Kors, TM Lewin, Mango, FatFace, Boux Avenue, Pretty Green, Cruise, Hugo Boss, All Saints, Five Guys and Zizzi, to name a few.”
Commerz Real, the owner of Victoria Square, said it was delighted to report the landmark achievement for Victoria Square. Katharina von Schacky, divisional head of Real Estate Markets Shopping at Commerz Real, said: “The significant investment Commerz Real has put into the destination and a well-executed, long-term leasing strategy has made it the city’s dominant retail and leisure destination.
“Commerz Real continues to use its resources and industry knowledge to ensure that this position is maintained and we look forward to Victoria Square continuing to outperform in the region. We remain committed to not only to Victoria Square, but to Belfast as well.”
Victoria Square has become renowned for first to market brands, with over 150 brands exclusive to the centre in Northern Ireland. But the scheme is also committed to supporting local businesses, with seven local brands in the scheme and 50 local traders supported in the centre during the year.
Criona Collins, Head of Retail Agency at Lambert Smith Hampton, Victoria Square’s asset manager, said: “Our team has been involved in the leasing of 31 units over the past five years, which has kept Victoria Square’s leisure and retail offering fresh, attractive and exciting.
“In the last 12 months we have worked on some very exciting investments, including the £5m renovation by House of Fraser, which saw the entrance of new brands including Charlotte Tilbury, Nars and Frédéric Malle.
“The new brands we bring to the centre reflect the shopping aspirations of the city and the team at Victoria Square remain focused on adapting to rapidly shifting consumer trends and delivering a vibrant retail destination for the future.”
Victoria Square has also contributed significantly to the community in the past decade, raising more than £200,000 for local charities. This year it has made mental health its cause of the year and will be providing support to five local mental health charities.
Mrs Greeves said that said this commitment is in line with the centre’s ethos and its focus on creating a positive customer experience.
“Customer experience is at the heart of everything we do because we want shoppers to keep coming back to Victoria Square. The reason for our 10th birthday celebrations is that we want to give our customers a chance to share their memories of the centre and to learn what they would like to see in future,” she said.
“We hope to introduce more new brands to the centre throughout 2018 and we look forward to making a continued contribution to the local economy in the next 10 years.”