With physical retail and hospitality taking a battering during the Covid pandemic and, to some extent even before the crisis, there’s no wonder the future of the UK high street is in doubt.
As lockdown restrictions are gradually lifted, many town centres and cities have been left littered with a raft of shuttered up shops and eateries; leaving many wondering if there will indeed be a ‘bounce back’ or V-shaped recovery as has been opined.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Nestled under the Mancuian Way on the Oxford Road in Manchester is Hatch, a new style of food, drink and retail destination that is winning traction with both consumers and its traders alike.
Conceived by Bruntwood Works, the community-driven property developer, Hatch provides an environment for new food and beverage brands and retail businesses to launch and grow and, with the ultimate aim, that they will thrive.
Hatch is what Bruntwood Works’ town centre and consumer brands director, Andrea George, terms an “incubation space”. It is a physical platform that enables brands to embark on a journey, progressing from a small market-type stall to a shipping container unit and ultimately into bricks and mortar; ideally within Bruntwood’s own property portfolio.
In the same vein as Hatch being an incubator, George describes Bruntwood Works as an “enabler versus an operator”, helping to nurture new start ups before they literally fly the nest.
It’s a win-win based partnership. Bruntwood Works takes 15% of a brand’s turnover in return for the opportunity to test, trial and potentially tweak a new concept in a lower risk, safer retail environment. Bruntwood Works is also on hand to provide guidance and help with fit outs, if required. The ‘enabler’ also has an alcohol license, which provides food and beverage brands with an opportunity to sell alcoholic drinks; in addition to running three of its own bars including the Hatch Tavern.
Opened 18 months ago, Hatch is one of Bruntwood Works’ two consumer brands – the other being Afflecks, a former department store in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which has been transformed into an indoor market and ‘indie’ shopping destination.
Afflecks, like Hatch, has just emerged from the latest of three lockdowns and is now a busy and vibrant centre with footfall back up to pre-pandemic levels, George reports.
Hatch is also buzzing with activity, catering to the Oxford Road’s diverse population mix – as well as being a hub for students, the area is home to the Manchester Royal Infirmary, The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Science Park; while Symphony Park, Manchester’s largest public park, is close by.
Hatch is also adjacent to Circle Square, a new mixed use development, which is being orchestrated by a JV between Bruntwood Group company Bruntwood SciTech and Vita Group.
Opening in three phases, starting in spring 2021, Circle Square offers 100,000sq ft of retail and leisure space plus 1m sq ft of office and work space plus homes and private rental accommodation.
“Hatch is a solidified pro format to Circle Square and showcases the diversity of the location,” states George. “It gives retail and leisure operators the confidence that customers are here.”
Bruntwood SciTech’s leasing strategy for Circle Square is that all new operators are either first to Manchester or new concepts and include Canvas, the London-based venue operator, which will host live music and events alongside a restaurant and bar; TRIB3, the health and fitness brand; and Hello Oriental, a new market hall and dining destination.
Back at Hatch, there’s a similarly eclectic mix of operators including Hanoi 75, offering Vietnamese street food from a double decker bus; Parmogeddon, specialising in the Teesside delicacy the chicken Parmo; KBOM, offering Brazilian and Portuguese street food; Herbivorous vegan food; the Abuja tapas bar; FUKU Asian street food; MorMor Levantine cuisine; DJ Gym, offering DJ production courses; The Portland Barbers; Industry hair salon; Miami Ice cocktail bar; plus retail brands including Black Square Beer; Toucan Avenue tattoo studio; O’Donnell Moonshine; Suzy Loves Milo vintage clothing; and Sneaker Pharm, Manchester’s first drop off shoe cleaning boutique.
They will be hoping to emulate one of Hatch’s recent success stories, Nordic Muse. The jewellery and lifestyle retailer has progressed from a Hatch market stall to a shipping container to a bricks and mortar store in the City’s Northern Quarter, as well as selling online. The business felt the high street lacked a personal touch that artisan markets like Hatch provide. Once fully fledged it, like others, was ready to fly.