Regent Street rejects old kids on the block

It may be one of the world's great shopping destinations, but London's Regent Street is failing the fashion test, according to the Crown Estate, which holds the lease on shops in the famous thoroughfare. And for some of its most venerable tenants that means one thing: eviction.

A retail renaissance is needed in the capital, the owners believe, and are looking to top US brands and the hip labels of European fashion to stem a tide of shoppers flooding towards the super-malls dotted around the M25.

That means the end of the road for Regent Street legends such as Dickens & Jones and Laura Ashley, while the arrival of Apple computers and US surfwear giant Quiksilver signals the area's new image.

With rents rocketing as £500m is spent upgrading buildings, it is expected that more stalwarts of "old Regent Street" will be forced out.

Yet, despite the price hikes, emerging giants of global retailing are being lined up to replace stores your grandparents might have frequented. The sought-after swanky new image is represented by the likes of Nike, the US sportswear manufacturer, which set the tone with its Niketown store.

Then Apple, maker of the iPod, last year transformed a 20,000sqft space into its European showcase store. Also arriving as the revamp takes shape are fashion label Massimo Dutti, part of the Spanish chain Zara, which has already established a huge outlet in Regent Street.

House of Fraser recently announced that it would close the 170-year-old Dickens & Jones department store with the loss of 500 jobs. The rent had been fixed in 1957 at £250,000 a year. But following a review it soared to £4.5m. Planning permission is about to be submitted to turn the space into a modern location for three flagship stores. On top will perch luxury residential apartments.

Last week Laura Ashley, famed for its floral skirts and wallcoverings, announced it would also leave the street. Its site is said to have been snapped up by the upmarket nursery brand Mamas & Papas, a favourite with thirtysomething professional parents.

The wind of change is being blown by the Crown Estate, the Queen's £4.5bn property portfolio which owns swathes of prime freehold across the country, including Regent Street.

It has realised that to remain a leading shopping destination, Regent Street has to work with the brands being talked about in cappuccino bars and internet chatrooms.

"We know that Regent Street faces stiff competition from other retail centres, and the West End is a fantastic location, but ultimately, none of us are going to pretend it's ideal at the moment," conceded a spokesman for the Crown Estate. "It wasn't quite a world-class environment. That's what we're trying to work towards."

The Crown Estate only wants international brand names. The writing would appear to be on the wall for the low-end and discount outlets that pepper the street. The spokesman said the Crown Estate's catchwords for the area are "quality, heritage, success and style. Our guys use that when assessing retailers."

He added that prospective leaseholders had been turned away for not meeting the new criteria: "We have a very clear commercial imperative but there have been times when we haven't taken the highest rent. We know what we want."

The next phase in the redevelopment of Regent Street will focus on the lower part, known as the Quadrant. Retailers currently in situ include McDonald's and various cut-price luggage companies.

The Crown Estate hopes to pedestrianise some of the streets leading off the Quadrant and to completely rebuild the block that houses the Atlantic Bar & Grill. The spokesman said the restaurant and its Art Deco fittings would not be affected. Income from the Crown Estate goes to the Treasury, under the terms of a deal struck in the 18th century. In return, the Government agreed to pay the sovereign an annual fee - now known as the Civil List.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent