Bright future for Sailmakers after shopping centre changes hands

A major shopping destination in the heart of Ipswich has been bought by a Nottingham property firm on a mission to revive struggling town centres.

ALB Group has completed the purchase of Sailmakers shopping centre, in Tavern Street, Ipswich, which is home to numerous high street brands including Boots, HMV, River Island, Poundland and Baldwins department store.

With around 25 per cent of the 166,000 sq. feet property currently unoccupied, including the 7,500 sq. feet former Top Shop store, the new owner is promising to take a fresh approach to encourage more local businesses into the space.

Part of this resurgence plan includes the complete refurbishment of two units in the centre and earmarking them for local designers, artists, charities or businesses interested in taking on an eight-week “pop-up” opportunity at a very low rent.

ALB Group has been busy acquiring town centre properties in other parts of the UK in a drive to “rethink and revive” struggling high streets.

Its key strategy is to offer more affordable and shorter, more flexible leases in order to breathe new life into the nation’s towns and cities, as well creating a more attractive environment for local, independent entrepreneurs to trade.

Arran Bailey, managing director of ALB Group, said: “We are determined to rethink the way high streets are managed and offer these important community centres the chance of revival.

“Sailmakers represents a significant acquisition for ALB, and we can’t wait to support Ipswich along its road to recovery.”

Spearheading the marketing of the available retail units in Sailmakers shopping centre on behalf of ALB Group are commercial agents Prime Retail and FHP.

Tim Lloyd, partner at Prime Retail, said: “I’m excited to be working alongside a company as forward-thinking and hands-on as ALB Group. Sailmakers has been in desperate need of new owners for some time and, as a resident of Ipswich myself, I see true potential here.

“If we can target independent and local operators, and offer flexibility with low costs on units that are ready for immediate occupation, we will help to begin the revival.

“In view of what ALB Group has already achieved elsewhere in the UK, Sailmakers couldn’t be in better hands.”

ALB has already begun the task of improving town and city centres with recent property purchases in Birkenhead, Stoke-on-Trent, Huddersfield, Derby and Nottingham.

In the case of Nottingham, ALB set out to recreate the vibe of London’s Carnaby Street in the city’s Bridlesmith Gate area by encouraging niche businesses to set up shop.

Oliver Marshall, associate director of FHP, said: “Sailmakers ticks all the boxes in terms of opportunity. It already has some great tenants, and we are looking to build on that. We’re taking a fresh approach to the marketing, and we’re happy to discuss all active interests. The key here is flexibility, which many other high street landlords have failed to offer previously.”

Phil Daniels, director of FHP, who represented ALB in the acquisition, added: “It was a pleasure to work with Prime Retail and ALB Group on the successful acquisition of this shopping centre.

“Following recent acquisitions of smaller retail assets in Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Nottingham, Sailmakers represents a new scale of ownership for the ALB Group, which is actively seeking further opportunities UK wide.”