Following the launch of several completed retail repurposing schemes and our continued involvement in many others, I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the positive ways retail property is impacting our environment right now.
The retail property industry has been experiencing a dynamic transformation for several years in response to the shift in customer behaviour, impacts of technology, the move to online shopping and of course the pandemic which have marked some significant positive changes that are continuing to reshape the sector. As the retail landscape evolves to meet these challenges (as it always does), significant opportunities have emerged for retailers and property owners.
1. Reinvention of retail spaces
Rather than being viewed as a challenge, the changing retail environment has inspired the reinvention of retail spaces. Property owners and retailers are embracing the concept of experiential retail, creating immersive and engaging environments that go beyond traditional shopping experiences. These transformed spaces feature interactive displays, cutting-edge technology integration, unique customer experiences and new exciting F&B concepts which encourage foot fall and foster longer and more meaningful visits.
One such example that the RLB team is involved in is the creative centre development for Basildon Council where RLB is providing cost management services. The project will see two retail units in the town centre become part of a new office and creative campus for the immersive digital industries to be used by local enterprises and start-ups and aligning to the local educational institutions. Not only a great way to repurpose empty retail space, but also demonstrating social value while incorporating the latest digital technologies.
2. Integration of omnichannel strategies
The growth of e-commerce has pushed retailers to adopt omnichannel strategies, seamlessly integrating their online and offline channels. In 2023, more retail property owners are recognising the value of supporting these strategies by providing physical spaces that enhance the digital shopping experience. Properties are being designed with the infrastructure and amenities necessary for click-and-collect services, returns processing, and even in-store experiences that seamlessly bridge the gap between online and offline shopping.
3. Rise of community-centric retail spaces
Retail property owners are increasingly focusing on creating community-centric or celebrating local culture in their spaces that encourage social interactions and engagement. These spaces serve as vibrant hubs, hosting events, pop-up shops, and activities that bring people together. By cultivating a sense of community, retail properties can drive foot traffic, build loyalty, and create a unique sense of place that sets them apart from online retail experiences.
The recent development of Winsford’s Queen’s Parade and Fountains Court is one such project that we have been involved in providing cost management for Cheshire West and Chester Council. Providing regeneration to Winsford’s town centre, the new development will incorporate new retail units, a management suite relocation and a hardstanding area which can be utilised by Public Realm community based activities.
4. Sustainable and environmentally conscious practices
Sustainability has become a central theme in the retail property industry. Property owners are implementing environmentally friendly practices, such as energy-efficient designs, renewable energy sources, and waste reduction initiatives. By prioritising sustainability, retail properties are attracting younger and more eco-conscious consumers, enhancing their brand reputation, and contributing to a more sustainable future.
5. Flexibility in lease structures
In response to changing retail dynamics, lease structures are becoming increasingly more flexible and adaptable. Property owners are embracing shorter-term leases, pop-up store arrangements, and revenue-sharing models, allowing for greater agility and risk-sharing between landlords and tenants. These flexible lease structures enable retailers to experiment with new concepts and respond swiftly to evolving consumer trends while providing property owners with a steady stream of tenants.
The retail property industry in 2023 is continuing to witness positive changes that embrace innovation, customer-centricity, sustainability, and flexibility. Through the reinvention of retail spaces, integration of omnichannel strategies, focus on community engagement, sustainability initiatives, and flexible lease structures, retailers and property owners are adapting to meet the evolving needs and expectations of consumers. By embracing these transformations, the retail property sector is well-positioned to thrive in an increasingly dynamic and competitive market.