Retail: 40 per cent of high street shops will have to be repurposed or they will ‘wither on the vine’, local leaders warn
Some 40 per cent of high street shops will have to be repurposed or they will “wither on the vine” as the demand for physical retail dwindles, local leaders have warned.
According to a survey by trade body Revo and consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton, as first reported by The Guardian, the need to reinvent retail space is the “biggest concern” named in a survey of councils, landlords, developers and other local bodies – with many now looking at bringing homes, offices, food and drink venues into space no longer required for shops.
The research showed over half of those surveyed believed that between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of retail space needs to be reinvented in the next five years for leisure, hospitality, health or civic use.
“There is a danger that if our towns don’t transform then some will wither on the vine before the decade is out,” Vivienne King, the chief executive of Revo, said at a conference in London on Wednesday discussing the regeneration of retail.
It comes as analysts at the Local Data Company (LDC) found that redevelopment has reached a new high, with 10,739 units repurposed in 2022, compared with 9,139 in 2021 and 7,307 in 2019 before the pandemic.
It was also found that about 15 per cent of UK retail sites lay vacant last year, which was largely fuelled by the fallout of the pandemic which wiped popular retailers such as Debenhams and Topshop off the high street.
The LDC found that a fifth of Debenhams stores, which closed in 2021 its administration, have been repurposed while almost half remain empty.
Also speaking at the conference, Steve Norris, head of regeneration and planning at LSH, said: “This shows the scale of the challenge town centres are facing and the radical surgery required.”
However, the chief noted that it was not “all doom and gloom for town centres” as the sector could be entering into “one of the most exciting and creative periods in their long history as it is not just about retail any more. It could be a town centre renaissance”.