Britain has been affectionately known as a nation of shop keepers and shoppers but is this traditional image changing? Have we all gone on line or perhaps moderated our expenditure in line with Government rhetoric or pleas to save? Indeed a walk around some towns and cities might suggest Britons are falling out of favour with shopping, with boarded up shops and low footfall. Is this true? Despite dire predictions we have actually been involved with clients expanding their retail foot print through out the UK albeit in many cases, as one aspect only of their "multi channel" offer.
In some cases and areas of the United Kingdom there is clearly an oversupply of retail space given a lot of new shopping developments have added huge amounts of new space to an already well provided market. In other areas, rather than a death of the retail shop, I think we are seeing a change in the dynamics of the retail shopping experience to a more leisure based focus which is driven increasingly by location. This not perhaps something new but rather an acceleration of trends from the 20th century.
Going forward there is increasing evidence that retail centres, be it shopping centres or high streets, which are linked to leisure and tourism, will do better than those which are not. We are seeing this with increased retail space being let to food and leisure providers in major centres and the rise of large multi location retail restaurant chains.
The other trend, which is noticeable, is the multi channel approach, that is combining online sales with large branded stores and click and collect, which has altered the dynamic of what "national coverage" might look like. Traditionally to get national coverage one may have needed more than 350 stores but these days can one do it with say 125 stores in key locations. We are also I think seeing, within this change, a change in the nature of the shops as the internet picks up sales of products which it is not fun to shop for.
I think therefore going forward we are going to see our retailing driven by experience and more part of an overall leisure delivery. Whilst we are seeing a change in lease terms, in shorter leases and break options and other changes, the cost of fitting out retail shops actually means that most retail decisions are often on a longer term basis than the short lease and, as such, getting the location correct in this new dynamic will remain key.
In short we are living through a shift in retail provision which I suspect has quite a way to go and will see more changes of where and how we shop.