Retail park is sold 
in £32 million deal

St John's Retail Park. PNL-150520-173211001
St John's Retail Park. PNL-150520-173211001

A retail park owned by a Bedford founded firm has been sold in a staggering £32 million deal.

The Howard Group – which started as a coal and coke delivery business back in 1935 –has sold the town’s St John’s Retail Park to Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust.

The multi-million pound deal follows a £2 million investment in the park over the last two years, which included a complete refurbishment of the signage and fascias, along with the creation of extra retail space to house Majestic Wine, Costa Coffee and Hobbycraft.

The site, which opened as a retail park in 1989, is also occupied by other household names such as PC World, Homebase, Mothercare and Halfords. Businesses based there are secured on the site through long term leases.

The Howard Group, founded by Jimmy Howard, started developing the site in 1987 and it became home to the company’s headquarters in the 1990s, sitting alongside the group’s transport, warehouse and garage divisions.

The group’s former Bedford purpose-built head office has for many years been occupied by the Environment Agency but DHL recently took over a significant part of the building, which is included in the sale.

A spokesman for the company said: “The sale of St John’s is part of a wider positioning of the group’s property portfolio.

“This estate was built in the 1980s/90s and the general move is towards developing and acquiring newer investments eg Interchange Park Phase II in Bedford.”

The group’s chief executive Nicholas Bewes assured that Bedford remains a ‘significant centre’ for the business and said they will continue to invest in the development of the town.

Global head of real estate at Schroders Duncan Owen said: “St John’s Retail Park offers good fundamentals and an attractive initial income return. ”

The Howard Group will retain its £10 million investment in the Interchange Park. The company’s B&Q development in the town was sold in 2013 and it is close to completing the adjacent development, occupied by M&S Simply Foods, Costa Coffee and Motorvogue.