I’d suggest that Liverpool watchers should start turning their eyes toward the hallowed gates of Liverpool One over the next few weeks.
It’s the time of the year when commercial rents are due and bets are being taken on which high-street names are likely to go to the big white-washed window in the sky.
For some reason that escapes me, commercial landlords collect payments at quarterly intervals, meaning colossal outgoing for tenants every three months.
Pair that to poor trading conditions, and the fact that the post-Christmas lull is a traditionally-slow one, and you’re going to get casualties.
Staff at poor old Woolworths must have known the writing was on the wall when they didn’t get a move to swanky new Liverpool One, although its a sign of how poor Woolworths’ branding and image became that the very idea of a Woolies store in the privately-owned retail Mecca seems bizarre.
I’ve long suspected WH Smiths of being at death’s door, and Waterstones hasn’t been looking to sure-footed of late. A couple of shops in Liverpool One seem to have closed already – ostensibly temporarily – but there are a few trading while in administration. I’d guess the high-end big-ticket shops are likely to bear the brunt first.
Exactly what this would do for the image of the city’s newest tourist trap is unclear, but I’m sure I’ve noticed a few more boarded-up shops around there of late, and if that Liverpool Red Alert report is to be believed we’ll all be trying to eat bit of Liverpool One in six months’ time, so severe will the recession in Liverpool be.
We do know that many shops have had their rents waived, supposedly for up to two years and the good Duke of Westminster is reckoned to be reaching into his pockets to deck out shop units, something the tenant would normally pay for. So the exodus may not happen, at least not yet.
I’m hugely ambivalent about Liverpool One. I understand the thinking behind it – the job and money creation speaks for itself – and there wasn’t much that will be missed on the site, but I rather suspect that retail activity will be sucked from other areas of the city centre in time.
Liverpool One’s private police force and glass-and-concrete architecture trouble me somewhat too. There’s something decidedly Ballardian about both, and while I can see the attraction in some of the architecture, the security people roaming the by-ways don’t attract any horrified fascination, they just get my back up.
I just don’t really get Liverpool One, it just looks like a bloody big shopping centre to me, though the park bit is quite cool.
But I don’t hope for shop closures. Much as I’m ambivalent about it, it’s here now and a disaster for Liverpool One would mean a disaster for Liverpool.
• N.B There are loads of fantastic images of Liverpool One on Flickr. Proof, I suppose, of the quality of some of the building and architecture, although most of them seem to paint it as some sort of dystopian nightmare. Click here to see more.