There’s life yet in the High Street – Colliers International

Colliers International has been considering the prospects for the UK’s high streets and has come to the conclusion in its forthcoming Midsummer retail report that it is poised for a “selective” recovery, with major town centres seeing the greatest reduction in empty shops. By 2020 the number of empty high-street shops will have fallen from its current 12% (of total floor space) to around 7%, a similar level to the peak in 2006, the firm forecasts.

Russell Francis, a director at Colliers International, says the recovery will be driven by growth in population and by modest economic and expenditure growth. Internet sales – currently around 13% of all non-food spending – are likely to rise to about 20% by 2020 before levelling off – online sales will no longer present as much of a threat to the high street, “as successful retailers will have by then aligned their internet and their property strategies,” he adds.

Colliers’ research has forecast likely retail demand to 2025 and has found there is an expectation that the net addition to town centre retail accommodation over this period will be minimal – that is to say very few new shopping centres are forecast. But a new wave of retail development is forecast to start in about four to five years’ time, thanks to a combination of limited new supply and continued growth in retail expenditure. The main focus of this new development will be in the major regional centres, and in London, where the population is estimated to grow by about 20%.

Mark Charlton, Colliers International head of research and forecasting, explains: “We forecast that the long delayed recovery in the retail market will start in 2014 but be focused on the big centres and smaller conveniences locations because the internet is forcing retailers to concentrate on larger ‘showroom’ stores in fewer locations.” He adds: “The day of new retailers entering into the UK and rolling 300 new outlets is over. The new model is to open 20-50 units in the major retail centres and to have a strong internet presence that runs symbiotically, providing the consumer with both traditional and online shopping options.”

Russell Francis concludes: “So the High Street is not dead. In some locations the prospects are very healthy, but in others intensive care is required. These will only return to health if they right-size and become less dependent upon comparison retailing.”