Kevin McGorie and Mark Convery from our North East agency team comment on the changing tastes in the North East leisure market and the increase in popularity of the out of town leisure market.
The past two to three years has witnessed a steady increase in the out of town leisure market, driven by social and economic factors and the changing tastes and requirements of customers.
The active expansion of out of town retail parks has seen has seen units that were formerly restricted to the Metro Centre or city centres taking up retail space beyond the borders, and with it shoppers have flocked to these new stores.
For every Next and B&M there is also a Greggs or Costa, but the food and drink industry has also wised up to the fact that shoppers now regard a trip to these areas as a day out in itself and have subsequently expanded into these areas. Popular champagne bar Glass House is one of example of an upmarket brand seeking to launch into this area, after taking a unit at Manor Walks in Cramlington.
Hungry Horse is also a destination that has ridden this increasing wave, with its pubs becoming family favourites that cater for children and adults alike. Food-led venues have leapt up as proprietors realise that a significant proportion of customers will be motorists travelling to these out of town places or young people, and so catering for all requirements has risen to the top of the agenda.
General lifestyle changes have also led the evolution, with people now more conscious of the health impact of certain types of food and drink. This has meant that wet-led venues where food was scarce have given way to dry sales rising in prominence, with a meal and a pint replacing a tray of shots in many cases.
Transformation is also in evidence, with the Earl of Pitt Street in Newcastle converting from a traditional, old-fashioned pub into a bistro famed for its fine dining, and is now a destination in its own right despite being slightly off the beaten track.
Whereas the recession was typified by a decline in leisure sales and custom, the opposite has been true in recent years, with pubs and bars raising their game to offer something more than simply drinks, and others reinventing themselves as they gradually migrate out of town – a trend set to continue in the coming years.