Trends 2017: Future Retail Destinations. Take it from me, it’s all about learning from experience
Why is the UK good at driving innovation?
It's all about the mature market.
You can with certainty class the UK as having a mature retail property market; but conversely this has led to innovation on a big scale – and the world is looking on.
In a global context, our retail property is fairly unique with most space concentrated in historically established town and city centres with a few regional out-of-town shopping malls, and edge-of-town retail parks. Thankfully, the endless ribbon development of retail along arterial roads seen in much of the world is generally absent.
Planning and development takes time. Too much time.
Our planning policy has for many years also focussed on city centre intensification, with tight plots and complex land ownerships. The multitude of stakeholders involves owners, local authorities and local interest groups which makes development a long process; often taking years to deliver a project further compounded by working in a constantly evolving economic and political environment.
Our work has paid off.
To deliver such projects, British designers and professional teams have had to work much harder to create innovative, viable schemes that meet the sometimes conflicting demands of local authorities and the developer. This has made our hard won experience sought after around the world for innovative ideas and constantly pushing the boundaries.
Especially where we are seeing a rapidly changing retail market with some well-known brands disappearing altogether due to the increasing challenge from online shopping and ever-changing shopping habits in a highly competitive sector.
Where is that innovative approach most required?
Viability is always the key driver; the larger schemes have relied on the formula of securing the right anchors and then providing enough other retailers to make the scheme viable. This concept of the anchor is changing; whilst the principles of driving footfall are the same, it might now be an F&B destination, leisure or events as much as a traditional department store that acts as the key draw.
F&B increasing presence.
Food, beverage and leisure: the rise and rise of F&B has somewhat balanced the decline of certain retailers leading to a higher overall percentage of A3 uses in a development. From a pre-recession concentration of 3-5% to typically 15-17% with some developments reaching Asian market averages of 30%. Such is the consumer’s desire for F&B and entertainment.
This makes shopping centres all the more interesting and can turn on its head the idea of prime pitch with adjacent locations: sides, backs and roofs are potentially attractive to up and coming restaurant occupiers. The increased F&B demand means that almost every centre in the UK is reviewing its catering offer and the refurbishment of existing centres is likely to be much more common place in this rapidly changing retail environment. Demand for retail and F&B at transport hubs means that a train station is now a place to meet friends for lunch or to buy gifts as well as starting a journey. Take Birmingham Grand Central as an example. Or Kings Cross, St Pancras.
It's all about the mix!
Mixed use developments with retail as the primary use at ground floor, it's becoming more and more essential to help create a place, but which also drives viability. Office, residential, transport and leisure all benefit from the synergy of retail occupying the ground floor (as a key draw for footfall) and the provision of a vibrant public realm.
The sterile office campus is a thing of the past, and landlords want to attract the right occupiers and staff to a more vibrant location which retail and restaurants can provide whilst utilising the less desirable ground floor office space. The housing crisis in London and other metropolitan centres is making higher density city centre living more attractive and this in itself can support a greater mix of shops and restaurants. Developers are considering retail anywhere where there is good footfall; providing a high quality public realm and good cafes and restaurants, help to keep people there.
Retailers must adopt omni-channel approaches including online, social media and mobile apps as well as the traditional store format. The challenge for developers is to enable their occupiers to be as innovative and competitive as possible by considering flexibility, enabling ease of access to and from the centre and allowing the latest technology to function optimally. The built environment must be attractive for all visitors – this means the quality of the architecture, public spaces and materials, the right atmosphere, authentic place-making and a memorable experience are key.
An exciting vision.
This drive for practical innovation has kept us building; the UK's cities have illustrated the need for continual renewal and change and we are in an industry that exists because of it. The UK has some of the world's most innovative shopping centres and it is a credit to our industry that international developers view the UK as the place to visit for the latest ideas and best in class approaches to developing communities.
Our cities across the world including the UK face the twin challenge of providing housing and transport infrastructure. Retail as part of a dynamic mixed use environment has the power to unlock potential sites and bring tangible vitality as well as viable solutions as part of wider development and regeneration.
Let's keep innovating to help inform ideas and change around the world and help us keep doing doing what we do best; creating terrific communities and places.