Repurposing Retail: 5 ways to use empty retail space

It has been well-reported that physical shops and retailers have been struggling in recent years due to the shift to internet shopping. With many retailers falling into CVA and administration in 2018, a lot of retail units are being left empty. In February 2018, 49,000 retail and leisure properties were reported as empty. This has meant that more than 200 shopping centres across the UK are in danger of falling into administration. However, there are opportunities to be had by converting empty retail units for alternative uses.


The internet and out-of-town retail parks have made shopping much more convenient and shopping centres less attractive for customers. However, if a shopping centre is a place where shoppers can enjoy a day out, they’re more likely to take the time to go there. Bars, restaurants, children’s activity centres, car showrooms and barbers give shoppers another purpose for going to a shopping centre and make them more attractive as a day out. Larger retail spaces have also provided new activities known as ‘competitive socialising’, such as crazy golf, trampoline parks and climbing walls.


Empty retail spaces could be used to store and distribute goods for online retailers. Particularly with the reported lack of industrial space, retail units in well populated areas could provide excellent last-mile logistics space to ensure fast deliveries. Amazon is said to be planning to acquire empty Homebase stores for use as delivery hubs. As many of the Homebase stores are often on retail parks close to urban areas, they could be well-located hubs for Amazon’s one-hour delivery service.


In locations where demand is high for residential property, an empty retail space could be seen as valuable. A larger resident population also helps to support retail sales in the area, and ultimately retail demand.


Shopping centre units can provide great co-working spaces as they are often well connected and the nearby retail and leisure amenities will make for attractive workplace locations. John Lewis is reportedly looking to repurpose unused retail space as co-working space in some of it’s larger stores.


As shopping centres tend to be in high traffic locations, they could make attractive self-storage facilities. Self-storage has often been in industrial properties; however 2018 saw a lack of stock of industrial property, so moving self-storage units to retail properties could help the situation with industrial property.

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