A report from one of the larger property consultancies takes the economic temperature of retailing in Central London and finds it close to normal.

This, it says, is in stark contrast with the rest of the UK where towns and cities are running a fever as they try to ward off the twin ills of rising prices and shopper apathy.

And a trip to Liverpool confirms this. Wander along Oxford Street, Bond Street or maybe Cheapside and every day seems to bring a new retail concept opening fully formed and attracting hordes of shoppers. In Liverpool, stores are also opening, but the old adage that as one door opens, another ones closes, or something like that, springs to mind.

The glory of one of England’s major port cites is undimmed and the arrival of Liverpool One, the Grosvenor shopping scheme that is set to take centre stage this week with the opening of a relocated John Lewis and Debenhams, reinforces the feeling. The trouble is, while the new stores look good and will doubtless go some way towards arresting the daily shopping migration to Manchester, there is the rest of the city centre to consider.

Stroll the length of the broad pedestrianised thoroughfare that leads to Liverpool One and it feels as if you have stepped back in time. Yes, there’s a Primark and nearby there’s a Marks & Spencer, but externally, both serve as a reminder of how things used to be with old-style fascias and the sense that Liverpool is not top of the agenda.

Debenhams has done a great job of creating a store that will be successful mainly because it doesn’t really feel like, er, Debenhams. This is how all of its stores should be, but there is a massive rump of what might be described as legacy branches whose interiors and exteriors would fit in well with much of what the rest of Liverpool remains about.

The figures seem to speak for themselves. This is a city that one report lists as having slipped from third to 13th in the UK league in recent times and it’s hard to see this being turned around quickly. All credit to two of Britain’s major department store owners for making the leap of faith as regards the future of Merseyside. But other retailers still need to follow suit rather than treating the city as somewhere where second best will suffice.

It remains a stretch to imagine that the razzle-dazzle of London’s West End can be replicated two hundred miles to the Northwest, no matter what is done.

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