London’s retail winners and losers

Our Development and Renewal seminar on 31 March looked at retail trends in London and at which areas stand to win or lose out as a result.  Change is afoot in the retail world; Stuart Morley, Head of Research at GVA warned that the strong growth in retail spending of the last decade is over and reduced disposable income and therefore spending will temper growth in the years ahead.

A population ever more adept with a mouse and a paypal account is curtailing retail growth: 2014 is the earliest that growth in ‘e-tailing’ is expected to level off.  Accessibility to retail areas may also be reduced, not by low car ownership (which is now levelling off after years on the rise), but by the rising cost of fuel.  And the number of retail units is decreasing while their size and range of product is on the up; food stores are now pretty much department stores in all but name.

Does this signify a death knell for retail centres?  Richard Coppell of Lend Lease was optimistic.  Retail is recreation for many, and to ensure a successful retail scheme the quality of experience (i.e. what else you can do other than shop) is what will ensure viability, along with the offer (what’s there) and the environment (how it looks and feels).  Westfield’s ‘winter garden,’ the  high quality public realm at Cardinal Place in Victoria and the plethora of eateries found in new retail centres were given as proof that getting people to spend more time, and therefore spend more money, guarantee the viability of retail schemes.  Croydon and Kingston were tipped as retail ‘ones to watch,’ whereas in places such as Fulham, Chiswick, Putney and Richmond prospects are perhaps less positive (see the map in Stuart’s slides at the link below).

The effect of large retail developments on town centres

But won’t Stratford Westfield, due to open in September, suck the life out of its existing town centre and neighbours in Leyton, Bromley by Bow and Hackney Wick?  Studies say not – the new Westfield will be competing with the big boys at White City, Bluewater and London’s West End, rather than the mid range retailers (Next, Debenhams) that characterise medium sized town centres.  The hope is that it will actually keep people spending in Stratford, rather than doing their higher end shopping and entertaining in other parts of London.  Nevertheless, Stratford’s existing centre is bound to be affected – whether it can survive and thrive alongside Westfield may well rest on its ability to create distinct retail offer for that growing chunk of the population that fancies a break from the chain stores.

Presentations from the seminar are here or viewable below. Watch this space for video clips of the panel discussion.