Re­tail’s new breed

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business -

While the high street strug­glers close stores and re­struc­ture their busi­nesses, a new crop of re­tail­ers are snap­ping up space on the high street. Fash­ion re­tailer Quiz cloth­ing, sta­tionery seller Smiggle and dis­count Dan­ish de­sign store Tiger have all been boost­ing their store es­tate. Land­lords are also opt­ing for more cre­ative ways to put their re­tail space to work. Start-up Ap­pear Here is help­ing them se­cure short-term leases with ten­ants, rather than al­low­ing their units to sit empty. Chris Fowler, at the Lo­cal Data Com­pany, says coun­cils need to look at in­no­va­tive ways to fill space.

“If some larger va­cant premises are sub-di­vided, does this make them more ap­peal­ing to a raft of other re­tail­ers who would not be suit­able for a large for­mat? “It is key for coun­cils to iden­tify any gaps in the mar­ket that could make these units rel­e­vant and at­trac­tive to to­day’s re­tail­ers. “A num­ber of town cen­tres that are per­ceived as ‘strug­gling’ al­ready have new hous­ing and em­ploy­ers in the pipeline, with a Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict in place to help de­liver the next phase of evo­lu­tion.”

‘Swansea of the Sev­en­ties was largely re­tail. The city of the 2020s will be leisure, food, bev­er­age, and re­tail’

high street re­tail­ers that can make a fist of it in the city?

While the ev­i­dence sug­gests that might be the case, lo­cal pol­icy, savvy lob­by­ing and a ma­jor in­jec­tion of gov­ern­ment cash could be turn­ing the city’s for­tunes on its head.

Lu­porini, who is chair­man of Swansea’s Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict as well as run­ning The Kar­domah restau­rant, says busi­nesses and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are tack­ling some of Swansea’s ills head on.

“We were hit in Swansea by out-oftown com­plexes, there is no doubt about that, along with in­ter­net sales and this whole era of con­ve­nience every­thing.

“But be­cause we have a strong part­ner­ship with the lo­cal author­ity, there is now a pol­icy of no more out-of-town de­vel­op­ments.”

Part of the rea­son why re­tail­ers like B&M are keep­ing a close eye on Swansea is be­cause it is in the early stages of a ma­jor over­haul.

The £1.3bn City Deal, a mix­ture of pri­vate and public sec­tor, aims to breathe fresh life into the city through 11 ma­jor in­vest­ments, rang­ing from the in­stal­la­tion of the lat­est dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­ture to con­struc­tion of an en­ter­tain­ment arena host­ing 220 events a year. Or­gan­is­ers hope it will drive the need for ho­tels, fur­ther food and bev­er­age, and more shop­ping.

Chief among the hopes is that it will en­cour­age more peo­ple to live in the city by creating thou­sands of jobs, which could help to plough money into busi­nesses.

Rob Ste­wart, leader of Swansea City Coun­cil, says the lo­cal author­ity is try­ing to re­pur­pose the high street.

“Cur­rently we are los­ing up to £180m a year be­cause peo­ple from Swansea are shop­ping else­where, ei­ther in the out of town de­vel­op­ments, or in Cardiff.

“Re­tail­ers like M&S are chang­ing their busi­ness models now, they are mov­ing to click & col­lect. So we are try­ing to fa­cil­i­tate that by clear­ing space in the city cen­tre.”

Work has al­ready started to trans­form Swansea’s The Kingsway road into a city cen­tre park. Ste­wart says these signs of res­ur­rec­tion are stok­ing pri­vate sec­tor con­fi­dence in the city. He is hope­ful that an empty Toys R Us store might now be filled by Swedish fur­ni­ture re­tailer Ikea.

De­spite the chal­lenges, Ste­wart is bullish. “What you can’t say is that there will be no need for re­tail, that there will be no room for food and bev­er­age. Of course there will be.

“We are try­ing to change the mix of what we have. The Swansea city cen­tre of the Sev­en­ties was largely re­tail. The city cen­tre of the 2020s will be leisure, food, bev­er­age, and re­tail. Prob­a­bly in that or­der.”

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