A UK online beauty-retail wunderkind has applied for permission to build a $1bn business campus at the new Airport City Manchester business zone, with its eye on a million square feet of offices eventually accommodating 10,000 people.
Billed as the largest ever development by a UK company outside London, the deal between successful e-commerce company The Hut Group (THG) and Airport City Manchester paves the way for two sites, one housing a vast new headquarters building and the other a studio for creating video and photographic marketing material.
"This is in every sense a big deal and we are delighted to have an international company of this importance headquartered in Airport City," said leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, adding that the announcement is a "major vote of confidence in the city".
Founded in 2004 by Matthew Moulding, the Manchester firm retails beauty and wellbeing goods in 164 countries. In the year to 31 December 2017, sales grew 47% to £736m, with international sales growing 62% to £512m.
We have worked closely with THG to help the company establish its initial presence at Airport City Manchester and will develop our relationship to deliver what will be the largest office development deal outside London for over 20 years.– Charlie Cornish, chief executive, MAG
THG already has a presence at Airport City. Earlier this year the company, which employs 5,000 people globally, took 79,000 sq ft of office space in the Voyager and 4M buildings, where some 1,000 of its staff are now located.
The new plan reflects THG’s confidence in continued fast growth.
The largest of the two new sites, called "THQ", the company calls a "landmark business campus". It will be built over 16.8 acres in four phases, with phase one comprising office buildings totalling 280,000 sq ft. An option agreement has been reached between THG and Airport City Manchester for phases two, three and four of the business campus.
"Ultimately supporting up to 10,000 jobs, the project represents the UK’s largest bespoke office development outside London," THG said today, adding that a planning application has been submitted, with construction scheduled to begin in early 2019.
At a second site nearby, THG wants to build a new content creation studio on an 11.6-acre site, expanding the group’s marketing production capabilities following its acquisition of the content creation company, Hangar 7.
The studio complex, called "Icon", will have 104,000 sq ft of office space over four floors, as well as additional content creation facilities totalling 168,000 sq ft. Icon will house some 2,000 people who will be focused on video production and photography.
THG founder and chief executive Matthew Moulding said: "THQ is a landmark development for THG and another important step in our growth story. As we continue to extend our global footprint, it makes sense for us to base our headquarters at Airport City in Manchester, with its global connections and access to talent and supply chains worldwide.
"THQ and ICON cement our position as a significant player and employer in the UK and we look forward to expanding even further from here, attracting and retaining the most innovative and inventive talent from across the globe."
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG and Airport City JV partner, said: "As a technology-led, e-commerce business with a significant international footprint, THG is the ideal anchor occupier for the first phase of Airport City Manchester, which will bring significant job creation to the region and further emphasise our position as a hub for international commerce.
"We have worked closely with THG to help the company establish its initial presence at Airport City Manchester and will develop our relationship to deliver what will be the largest office development deal outside London for over 20 years. This is a major boost for the delivery of Airport City, where we still have 60 acres of land available to deliver a further 2m sq ft of business space."
THG professional team for THQ is: Penson (concept designer and executive architect), Edmond Shipway (project manager/quantity surveyor/employer’s agent), OBI Property (agent), Gowling WLG.
THG professional team for Icon is: Stoford (developer), P3Property (agent), Webb Gray (architect), Gowling WLG.
In September 2018, THG was recognised as Tech Retailer of the Year by Retail Week.
Image: The Hut Group’s render of one of its new complexes (Penson)