‘’But retail’s dead…Isn’t it?’’
We hear this a lot. But if you believed everything you read in the National Press about the state of the UK retail market since the pandemic you would be wondering how our Retail & Leisure team is surviving.
More than 11,000 outlets permanently disappeared from our high streets, shopping centres and retail parks last year alone. Mostly chain outlets closed, we saw brands such as Debenhams, Top Shop, Miss Selfridge, Burton, Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Jaeger, Cath Kidson, J Crew, Oasis, Warehouse, TM Lewin close their doors forever. Footfall is down more than 30%.
The stats are true, and in some towns and cities the future may well be bleak and recovery prospects poor. In some areas rents are reducing, lease lengths are shorter and generally retail space is shrinking and alternative uses are being sought. In Central London footfall is still down 60/70% mid-week, but better at weekends and won’t bounce back until more office staff and tourists return.
An example of future growth plans with our client The Foschini group whose brands include Whistles and Phase Eight have a number of targets across the UK for it various brands.
The reality is that as well as letting and acquiring shops, our role has evolved; we are leading the way with our Lease Advisory Work and are extremely busy with high levels of activity. Where we have long standing relationships, we are actively helping our clients to steady their ships; we are entrenched with negotiating existing leases to help our retail clients to stay in locations but on reduced terms or helping our landlord clients to keep their tenants by supporting them.
We have all seen the strength of localism with so many working from home, if you are a landlord and have a vacant shop in a small town you may find more interest than pre pandemic but not necessarily from a branded operator. We have been inundated with enquiries from start-ups and independent operators wanting to open.
Our team have worked with some new clients over the past 12/18 months who are focussed on opening new units.
- Loon Fung – a Chinese supermarket where we have agreed our first deal with more to follow next year.
- Wingstop – are the largest fast casual wing focused brand in America with 1500 locations worldwide. BFare solely retained by the UK company to assist with their nationwide expansion plans; currently trading from 12 sites with continued growth at a pace of 10 new opening per annum. Wingstop are an innovative chicken restaurant targeting generation Z and millennials and have partnered through collaborations with Gymshark, Spotify, Microsoft Xbox and Converse.
- Nova of London, trading as Vanilla, is a fashion brand who have just opened their first store in Bluewater with further stores planned to open in before Christmas and we are already working on new sites to open in 2022.
- Zapp – are a dark grocery delivery business has launched in London; they aim to deliver to your door within 10 minutes from placing your order online. We are seeking quirky space, either light industrial or defuncted retail. They need 24/7 access and decent loading.
- Pirate Studios – are another new client to BF that are extremely different to our typical retail client. If you want to hire some creative space for music rehearsal, or DJ recording or a dance studio this is where you would go. They are looking in major cities up and down the country.
So……Retail bricks and mortar is not dead, it’s just different and will continue to evolve as will our role in shaping the future.