Yesterday, Alison Key, who heads up our real estate practice in the north of England and Scotland, spoke at a Place North West event at Manchester Central Convention Complex which we co-sponsored with Savills and IBI Group.
The topic was the future of retail and the speakers from the sponsors, Barker Proudlove, Stockport Council, Colliers, Place Dashboard, London Union and APAM shared some interesting and diverse views about current and future trends in the retail property world:
- spend on food and beverage is increasing over time, so despite a slowdown in the casual dining market, over the longer term this is a growth area
- the collapse and contraction of some of the bigger chains is leaving space for local and independent operators, bringing interest and diversity to town centre high streets and smaller shopping centres
- how to repurpose larger stores which become vacant is a headache (House of Fraser and BHS are live examples); leisure, office and residential uses are all options, but take time to implement and in the meantime large stores which have historically anchored a shopping centre remain empty, bringing down the whole area
- the increasing role which the public sector, in the form of local councils, is playing in the retail sector is welcome. Councils have other motivations than just profit and can take a long term view
- reform of business rates is urgent; high rates are a real deterrent for new operators