Call me a conspiracy theorist (oh, go on, please!), but it's significant that the Liverpool Echo has suddenly stopped reporting on the effect of the Liverpool One retail behemoth on the Bold Street area. The reason? Well, it could just be that grim yet accurate reports about a major thoroughfare's travails don't sit well alongside puff-pieces for the Liverpool One development, a retail phenomenon which, we are assured, will bring more jobs, investment & general prosperity to Merseyside. [They forgot to add that it will bring an end to Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe; end famine in Africa; & solve the Palestine question. However, I'm sure it'll accomplish those feats as well.]
Sunday's Observer carried a report on the number of shopping projects being built around the UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/jul/06/retail.creditcrunch . Inevitably, Liverpool One was mentioned. Of particular relevance was this brave noise emanating from the retail property business:
"Michael Green, chief executive of the British Council of Shopping Centres, says it is up to developers and local authorities to work together to make sure older town centres are not left to rot when superseded by a new centre. 'It is our duty as an industry to modernise retail and sometimes there can be a knock-on effect,' Green says."
Therein can be found the faultline running through the unalloyed enthusiasm over the Liverpool One project. All the signs are that the credit crunch will have a brutal effect on spending levels & smaller shops. Even Liverpool One, after this frenzied initial splurge, will feel the heat as people realise the full cost of retail therapy when next month's credit card bills fall through the letterbox. Expect empty spaces in the mall & anguished Echo pieces asking where it's all gone wrong. What it may mean for Bold Street (& possibly Church Street) is an acceleration of the economic downturn, resulting in more boarded up shops.
There is also the civic aspect to assess. Liverpool City Council, with its bumbling, cack-handed & downright corrupt running of the city, cannot be relied upon to make the right decisions. The council is in denial about the reality that Liverpool One acts as a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking in most of the (finite number) of shoppers who would otherwise visit other retailers in the city centre.