Katherine Croom, Managing Director at Sorbon Estates, explains why diversity holds the key to a successful future for high street retail.
The future of the UK high street will not be all about retail, it will be all about diversity. And this is what will keep the shoppers visiting town centres and spending on high street retail.
As a high street landlord, our focus is on creating town centres that balance what people need alongside interesting and desirable brands, including some that you won’t see elsewhere. So, while consumers need to visit the doctors or chemist and pick up groceries, it’s vital to consider what keeps them in the town centre when the practicalities are done.
From a retail perspective, the ideal offering is a great mix of known fashions brands complemented by one-off independent retailers with unique products and bespoke shop-fits that will provide an inspiring retail mix for visitors and locals alike. Add to this a quality F&B offering and you have a vibrant town centre that gets going at 7am and continues into the evening. Great coffee shops, places to brunch, restaurants for evening dining, places to see and be seen and keep that footfall coming.
A great example is Marlow high street where visitors will find dentists, grocers and pharmacies alongside great high-end fashions brands like Whistles, Joseph and Moda in Pelle, complemented perfectly by independent retailers such as women’s lifestyle store Un Dimanche à Paris, children’s clothing Angel and Rocket and wine merchant Grape Expectations.
In addition to pure retail, we expect to see the return of ‘makers’, for example breweries with a bar or a pottery studio that sells its creations. The experiential side of retail will be a major focus and future high streets will be multi-dimensional, with escape rooms and gaming arcades found alongside restaurants and fashion stores. The fusion of retail and leisure has never been more prominent, and high street retail will depend on this ongoing evolution.
On top of this, town centre living is crucial to the future of high street retail. Juxtaposing residents with retail will naturally drive footfall and, consequently, sales for local stores and restaurants, creating demand and a genuine sense of community. The most successful high streets will incorporate residential developments.
Town centre office space will add to the success of high street retail with a similar effect to that of residential – creating a ready-made customer base for retailers. As the effects of the pandemic settle, town centre office space will add to the success of high street retail. Office space outside London will be in demand as businesses opt for satellite offices or co-working spaces that satisfy those who now prefer to work close to home rather than commute. Regional town centres will become hubs where people work, shop and live, driving lunchtime and after-work footfall, another positive force in the future success of high street retail.
We should also look to the retail brands themselves for diversity in the shape of an omni-channel business model. Retailers see their greatest success through multiple touchpoints that make the customer journey easier and more adaptable. While many of us may choose to shop online, the tangible experience of high street shopping will never lose its appeal and shoppers will always enjoy the choice.
Community and shopping local will always remain at the heart of high street retail. The more a town centre can bring together the numerous different elements that make up a community, the more successful its high street retail will be.
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.