Going shopping certainly isn’t what it used to be. It no longer needs to involve a trip to the town centre and a trek around various places looking for your potential purchase. A vast amount of people simply find, assess, and buy what they need (or desire) online, with a few clicks. Delivery is fast and efficient and stress, minimal.
So, if the retail sector is planning new locations and structures, they have to be adding value by being highly attractive as a leisure destination. Although retail sales volumes increased 6.6% in March 2019, shops on the high street are closing at a rate of knots.
This ‘hollowing out’ of urban centres reflects fundamental changes in consumer shopping behaviour. We’ll take a brief look at four projects, either in planning or ongoing, and the value they want to add.
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is the company behind two of the biggest shopping centres in the UK – the Westfield Centres, one in West London and the other at Stratford, next to the Olympic Stadium. They have ploughed more than £4 billion into these two London sites in the last ten years and are planning to spend another £2 billion.
The arrival of these giant shopping centres has energised the development of ‘London’s Opportunity Areas’ in that the areas around them are enhanced in value as attractive places to work, live, and visit. Their third retail project, the Croydon Westfield site (to be built in a joint venture with Hammerson) should see over £5.4 billion spent in and around its location, Although the recent uncertainty over Brexit has led to delays, the project looks certain to go ahead sooner rather than later.
Leeds City Centre
The redevelopment of the City Centre in Leeds is a sign of how the retail landscape is changing. It is estimated that the city centre will expand dramatically by redeveloping the district known as the South Bank area.
The ambitious plan is to build space for retail outlets, restaurants, cafes, office space, and residential areas. A ‘green zone’ with gardens and squares is also planned. Retail is only one part of the jigsaw, but it is clear how the future of retail planning can no longer simply rely on dropping a group of outlets into an urban area without thinking through how it will integrate into an overall strategy for lifestyle in the area.
Designer Village Cotswolds
Millions of tourists and Brits visit the picturesque Cotswolds every year and a new retail centre of 195,000sq near the town of Cheltenham will doubtless attract even more. In fact, this isn’t just any old shopping mall – it’s a “designer outlet village”.
This type of retail experience is bucking the trend when it comes to physical footfall and is still able to generate the required interest from customers and the major brand names who will be occupying the retail units. The “Designer Village Cotswolds” will open over two phases, with 90 retail units as well as big-name cafes, bars, and restaurants. Interestingly, this is the first venture into the UK retail market by a big European player – Vienna-based ROS Retail Outlet Shopping already has a portfolio of outlet centres in various European countries.
Finally, we return, inevitably, to London. A splashy new development will bring 30,000sq ft of new retail space around Oxford Street in the capital, in a recently unveiled project worth £300 million funded by Daejan Investments. Planning approval for the development has just been approved, so it will be some time before it’s operational.
Despite the online price and convenience challenge and widespread reporting of the death of the high street, it appears that there is still an appetite for large-scale and all-encompassing retail and leisure experiences. The question right now is what the impact of Brexit may have on those being welcomed through the doors with their wallets open.