Jeweller Azendi aims for openings close to prime

Leeds-based jeweller Azendi is looking to open additional stores that are close to prime, in response to the performance of a trial at Reading's Oracle centre in Berkshire.

Azendi's store at The Oracle is costing four times its original, more secondary units at York, Harrogate and Headingley in Yorkshire, which rent for about£30,000 a year.

The jeweller believes the high proportion of repeat business it attracts will enable it to trade from locations that are only 80 per cent prime.

Culverwell Property Consultants associate James Godfrey said: 'Azendi has realised it doesn't have to have 100 per cent prime stores.' Edinburgh-based Culverwell and chartered surveyor Dresler Smith in Leeds have been retained to find Azendi's stores.

Azendi managing director Ian Jones, who founded the retailer in 1989, said: 'We plan to open three or four more stores next year, based on where we can get a good deal.'

Azendi's most recent store is at The Walk, Edinburgh's hard-to-let luxury offer, where rents have been held below nearby trendy George Street. The chain has taken a 15-year FRI lease, subject to five-yearly upward-only reviews, on the 1,060 sq ft (100 sq m) two-level unit at The Walk at a base rent, plus turnover, capped at£75,000 a year.

Retailers are paying reduced rents until tenants are found for two-thirds of the vacant units at the predominately empty Coal Pension Properties-owned scheme. Peter Mace, a retail partner at letting agent Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker, said: 'Until you have a critical mass of units open, retailers would expect a discount of some sort.'

Retailers at The Walk, which opened in 2002, include Emporio Armani, Louis Vuitton and footwear retailer Sole. A further six units are being fitted out, with another four under offer, said Mace.

Azendi is considering a Glasgow outlet and has space under offer in Leeds.

It is also weighing up the London market. 'Azendi has a blank canvas,' said Godfrey. He added that acquisitions 'will be opportunity driven'.