City centre shopping and mixed use
Mixed use environments are key to a successful city centre, as they offer consumers a variety of reasons to come into town, ranging from retail to leisure to accommodation. And as landlords eventually come around to the fact that excess retail space is simply not going to be filled in the future, a wider range of uses seems inevitable.
The combination of retail and leisure is already growing in major UK destinations. For example, the refurbishment of the former BHS store on London’s Oxford Street has seen the store converted to encompassed Polish retail entrant Reserved, Swingers golf venue and bar, and the basement will soon become home to the UK’s biggest food hall.
Independents and pop-ups are also of major importance to mixed-use sites such as food halls and will become an integral part of the shopping environment, with landlords using pop-ups to continually curate and transform tenant mixes. Many independent brands will be owned by a single company, with each of these independents showcasing a different kind of shopping and dining experience. Meanwhile, the trend for chain store closures will continue, particularly in the food and beverage and mid-market fashion sectors.
The negative impacts of this retail industry transformation are already being felt nationwide (Figure 1), most notably in the West Midlands where a net 143 chain stores closed in 2017. Yorkshire and Humber was the only region to see positive movement in 2017, with a net growth of 11 chain stores.
Figure 1: Retail and leisure chains and independent stores: openings and closures, 2017
Source: OnBuy. Chains means operators with five or more stores
The 2040 city centre will have everything people require in a single location – almost like a community hub. There will be space to live, work, relax, shop, learn and be entertained, all in one place. This will be particularly prevalent in city centres where landlords have been forced by the current turmoil in the retail industry to think differently about how they fill vacant space, opting to alter the use of buildings to provide more residential and leisure and community options.
As for the retail that is left, we would expect to see increasingly personalised shopping experiences and offers, with some stores designed entirely to interact with the individual customers Fast fashion, fast food, quicker brand and fascia turnover and a blizzard of actively-managed pop-ups and special events will aim to keep customers coming back for more. Shops, leisure spaces and short-term rental properties will alter automatically depending on who is detected inside them, and when, and for how long. Landlords will use the huge amount of data likely to be available in 2040 to continuously curate tenant mixes, using shorter leases and pop-ups as the norm. City high streets could well get even more unpredictable than they are now.