Southampton’s new shop window artwork breathes life into city centre

One of Southampton city centre’s vacant premises has been given a colourful new lease of life ready to welcome back shoppers and visitors as well as new businesses to the area.

The initiative comes as it is revealed that dozens of new businesses have either moved in or will be making Southampton their home over the coming weeks and months.

News that as many as 20 businesses have opened their doors already or are set to open is a sign Southampton is set to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kokoro, Slim Chickens, Suits Direct and The Geek Retreat are just some of the new traders open in the city. MAST (Mayflower Studios) is set to open in May along with a number of bars and restaurants in Oxford street. Toy store giant Hamleys will also be opening their store next week (May 7) in Westquay whilst luxury brand Flannels opens in the Autumn.

Returning shoppers and visitors are being greeted with bright new shop fronts and eye-catching windows as the city centre lays on a colourful welcome display that is supporting local artists and Southampton’s UK City of Culture bid.

The former Argos unit on High Street near the Bargate is one of the buildings in the city centre that has been given a new window vinyl in an initiative to help bring businesses back to the city centre.

The area in the High Street was deemed perfect for the art works where vacant premises have been fully refurbished ready for new future tenants.

The project has been co-funded by GO! Southampton, the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) and City Partner for the City of Culture bid 2025, and property development and investment company MHA London. Unveiling the artwork at the former Argos store was Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Culture & Homes and Chair of Southampton 2025 Trust, Claire Whitaker OBE, Southampton 2025 UK City of Culture Bid Director and Adrian Wallace from MHA London.

The vinyl design is by local artist Nathan Evans and is part of GO! Southampton’s wider campaign to ensure that as shoppers return to the city post-pandemic, they will discover a re-invigorated area alive with colour created by local artists and designers.

Adrian Wallace, Chief Executive Officer of MHA London said: “Buildings are more likely to attract new tenants especially if units have been vacant for a long time – as was the case for the former Argos store on High Street if something proactive is done to positively increase their profile.  Installing building artwork or a vinyl helps draw the eye to the site and therefore attracts more shoppers – which can help increase the value to the owners as well as adding to the attraction of the site itself.

“We are thrilled to be working with the BID alongside their latest campaign to improve the look and feel of the city centre. Not only will this encourage shoppers to return to Southampton city centre after a long period of lockdown, but the revitalised city will also contribute towards Southampton’s UK City of Culture bid.”

Giles Semper, Executive Director at GO! Southampton said: “We’ve been working with a number of local artists to create several interactive and colourful pieces around the city designed to welcome people back to Southampton as the long Covid-19 lockdown eases.

“We also know the Covid-19 pandemic has been hard for the arts and culture sector and in our efforts towards Southampton’s bid for UK City of Culture, we wanted to do something that would work well to support our local artists and the businesses in Southampton. We need businesses to occupy our buildings. Retail is such an important part of our local economy – we don’t need shop fronts standing empty.”

Claire Whitaker OBE said: “Incorporating art into the public realm is a great way to showcase culture through our community. Southampton has a real breadth of visual art talent, partnerships and projects such as this give us the opportunity to highlight and promote the creative industries and the positive impact that they bring to the city.”