We attended the Future High Street Summit in Nottingham in March 2016 and learnt a lot about what's happening in town centres across the UK, which could help us address challenges here in Penrith.
This national two-day conference brought together experts from a range of disciplines that affect the development of town centres - from retail and economics to town planning. Here's a quick summary of what we learnt:
Town centres today...
The high street has changed forever following the recession in 2008.
There are now twice as many vacant shops as in 2008. The trend is beginning to change, with vacancy rates declining, but the fact remains that it's difficult to find tenants for retail units and many may now remain vacant forever.
Consumer spending has increased by 5% since 2008. By 2015, though, online shopping accounted for 15% all retail sales.
For many retailers based in physical shops the changes will mean lower sales and profits per square foot, because:
- Smarter consumers with more information and choice
- Margins driven down
- Increased costs
Interestingly, there's a strong relationship between footfall and sales in town centres.
Across the UK, we’re seeing the end of ‘clone town Britain’, where every town centre has the same array of shops. Instead, retailers are focusing on wealth rather than just population catchment areas as part of store selection.
There may be opportunities for high-street retailers to branch out into home delivery and ‘click and collect’ store delivery.
The new policy to allow councils to keep their revenue from business rates is likely to have a big impact on town centres. With central government funding for local authorities being eroded, applications for new retail developments will become attractive to councils because they'll generate revenue through business rates.
- Easily accessible, attractive town centres with modern-format retail units in affluent areas have a bright future
- Poorly performing retail centres are generally a symptom of a wider economic problem rather than being the problem in itself
- Stores of the future will be more convenient, personable and experiential
Find out more...
There's more detail about this in our presentation (below), which we put together to share what we'd learnt with partners in Penrith.
And if you'd like to delve deeper, have a look at the slides used by the various speakers, which are also included below.