Britain’s high streets and city centres are being severely impacted by changing consumer habits. Internet savvy consumers have more choice than ever about where they buy products, and many of them are choosing to order online, leaving ‘retail property for rent’ broads across the high street.
As people have been finding during Covid-19, it’s easy to shop from the comfort of your own home and a lot more convenient, especially with social distancing and health measures in place. In fact, there’s no real motivation for people to ever physically enter a retail shop again.
It’s a scary thought for many commercial property landlords and owners across the UK. What if you own or have a Retail property for rent on the market and are facing dwindling foot traffic and plummeting profits? How can you compete?
Give them a reason to visit Retail again
If the high street can offer consumers something different that they get from shopping online, some kind of ‘experience’, it could aid in the revitalisation of a place. One idea is to bring in a host of other commercial offerings, so people don’t just visit the high street to shop. Services, such as restaurants, bars or leisure and entertainment concepts can work symbiotically with retail to bring a tired town centre back to life.
Make it more accessible and affordable
How accessible is the high street currently: is there good public transport available? How expensive is the car parking? If public transport is poor or car parking is exorbitant, it can put people off. Addressing obstacles such as these can open up the high street, making it more accessible and affordable for people to visit. Why not offer cheap parking rates or a mobile app so people can pay simply by tapping their mobile phone? One landlord suggested the prices above should depend on how many retail properties for rent they’re in the local area.
Micro and macro solutions
There will be more issues to discuss, and solutions needed, such as how to raise more revenue to fund further improvements. Can car parking fees be reinvested? What about setting up Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to fund projects?
Then there are the bigger picture issues. Reforming outdated legislation, such as the Landlord and Tenant Act (which dates back to the 1980s), and lowering crippling business rates. Addressing these two issues alone could actually give retailers an incentive to invest in the high streets instead of putting them out of pocket.
Ultimately to save the high streets, everyone needs to be involved, from residents and commercial property owners, Retail property owners, to councils and government. Councils, governments, and other traditional institutions, especially need to adopt a more flexible and entrepreneurial approach if Britain’s high streets are to survive and prosper in the age of new technology.