Rising demand for retail property gives “renewed optimism” to UK high streets

UK high street with people shopping
A leisure boom is boosting the future of UK high streets
// Rising demand for retail property has given “renewed optimism” to UK high streets
// Many landlords have become more flexible in order to attract new brands

A rising demand for retail property to be used for leisure and hospitality businesses has given “renewed optimism” for some UK high streets and shopping districts, according to industry experts.

The pressure from lockdown measures saw vacancy rates across shopping destinations hit record highs in the second quarter of 2021, with just over 14% of high street store locations remaining empty during the quarter.

Shopping centres fared even worse, with vacancy levels sitting just under 20%.

Vacancy rates began to level out in the third quarter however, following a surge in interest from firms outside of traditional retail.

The collapse of major brands such as Debenhams and Topshop owner Arcadia at the end of 2020 saw the number of empty sites soar, placing increasing pressure on landlords.

As a result, many property owners have become more flexible and are offering stronger rates in order to attract new brands and businesses.

Read more: “We were tired of seeing copy-and-paste high streets and empty shops”

Chief executive of Retail Economics, Richard Lim, told PA news that potential tenants are “getting the best terms they will have seen for many years”.

“You can’t help but see renewed optimism when strong retailers are getting plenty of opportunities and landlords are working really hard to ensure their proposition is really relevant,” he said.

“There has been a shift in power away from landlords somewhat back towards the retailers and hospitality.”

Hugh Knowles, managing director of indoor mini-golf operator Puttshack UK, said the “increased availability” of larger units in attractive locations has also helped the growth of the leisure sector.

“Finding ‘large box’ space traditionally hasn’t been easy in prior years,” he said. “But the increased availability more recently has amplified innovation and as a result we’ve seen an increase in social entertainment business.

“Customers’ expectations will naturally rise, so it’s great that retail and leisure can share spaces in well thought out, designed schemes.”

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  1. Sorry do not believe this. More chains are likely to close on lease expiry. Canterbury is suffering a huge number of empty stores in a way I have never seen.

    We could do with a Flannels or Frasers in the former Debenhams store and the former Nasons is empty too. It looks horrendous that end of Canterbury High Street with Lush being the only premium brand left down that way now.


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