Online Retail and the High Street Vacuum

October 30 2017

Evolving Retail: Next and Debenhams

  • The High Street and department stores must fill the vacuum left by online retailing. This might entail a shift towards a wider variety of leisure pursuits.
  • Debenhams wants to make its stores more of a ‘destination’ and Next has indicated it will step up its concessions.
  • This is still in trial mode – concessions that have so far been tested include: sports retail, restaurants, cafes, beauty services, gyms. Not all of them will work.

New Models in Leisure…

  • Meanwhile, Brighton Pier Group is moving away from nightclubs and towards becoming a ‘mini Merlin’ that focuses on expeUnionJackrience-led attractions.
  • We have already seen mini-golf, cinemas, bowling, darts, ping pong, karaoke, and football tables get a modern twist. What else is there?
  • Escape rooms is another potential growth area, although Tick Tock fell short of its crowdfunding target and publicly-listed Escape Hunt remains under the radar.

Where to from here?

  • Retail has been busy filling vacant shops with A3 operators but the casual dining market is now arguably saturated.
  • We should expect downward pressure on rents as landlords struggle to occupy units.
  • The winners in this scenario might well be casual dining operators with strong brands, who can then pick up better sites at lower rates.
  • There could also be room for arcades, social gaming, and food courts.
  • Not all of these concepts mentioned above will work. Even if they do, it might not be enough to plug the gap.
  • A shift to residential tenancies might pick up some of the slack. Ultimately, though, there might just be too much space.