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Brewing Up A Change

Britain’s high streets have been transformed in the last 10 years and are increasingly populated by retail outlets where the customer actually needs to be there in person.  They have been forced to adapt due to the dominance of the internet but research shows that shopping in person is still seen as a key pastime for many people. 

Of all vacant shops in town centres just over a third have been sitting empty for more than 3 years.  The figure for these shops is just under 10,000 up 24% in the first 6 months of this year.  Shops that stand empty for years should be turned into something else with help from the government, a new report suggests.

Figures from The Local Data Company show the number of vacant shops has dropped compared to last year, but the number of properties unused for more than three years has gone up.

Research shows that there have been large increases in the number of convenience stores, rising 186% in a decade, as more people move away from the big weekly shop at a large supermarket to buying little, local and more often. The Institute of Grocery Distribution predicts that in five years the sales rung up in small neighbourhood stores will have increased by a third to almost £50bn.

The other big growth area has been tattoo parlours which have nearly tripled in a decade with one in three young adults having at least one.  Other outlets that have shown significant growth are health clubs, cafes, grab and go food venues with both takeaways and fish and chip shops firmly back on the menu.  The West Midlands has also seen significant growth in the opening of the cut price shops such as pound stores.

There have also been losses from the high street, most of which can be directly linked to technology and the internet.  Travel agents, video rental stores and photo developers have been casualties with people opting for booking their travel and flights online and viewing films via streaming services such as Netflix. The number of TV and DVD rental outlets has dropped 98% over the past decade.  Blockbuster closed down its remaining stores at the end of last year.

In Worcester we are seeing these changes and with them the city becomes an increasingly more social environment as consumers actually need to be there to enjoy the experience.  It would appear that there are products that we prefer to buy from a shop such as shoes and jewellery and we are noticing this too on the high street.  However, the recent closure of the prestige shoe shop Russell and Bromley goes against this trend.

Last month Worcester News reported that a new campaign could change the face of its High Street and city centre further as retailers are being urged to open up vacant space over their premises for apartments.

A unique UK pilot, “Living Over The Shop” could help the housing crisis and alleviate pressure to build on brownfield and greenfield sites. The campaign already has the backing of Worcester MP Robin Walker who has already contacted the Government to see if there could be a two year amnesty on council tax as an incentive.  The newspaper also reported that no one lives above any of the High Street or Shamble shops.  Reindeer Court has 3 flats with residents on the electoral role. 

Michael Reeves from our Commercial department says “London was the first city market to realise that the ancillary use above retail units could be very lucrative, whereby if the shop below became vacant, the upper parts (suitably refurbished) could be let out as a AST, made even more popular by the steep rise in London residential market values in the last few years. A trend followed by regional markets in Private renting , student accommodation, owner occupation and being priced out of the market in the Capital. 

So to conclude, it seems that it is the retailers who are less affected by the internet that are now dominating the high street.  As a landlord consider how much competition your prospective tenant may have and really think carefully whether they will be on the high street in the next 12-18 months and do not forget about your ‘ upper parts above your shop’.

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