Town centres weather online, supermalls storm (for now)

Town centres weather online, supermalls storm (for now)

The UK town centre retail market declined to £108.3 billion in 2017 but is forecast to rise 0.2% in 2018 and will continue to grow out to 2022, with sales being driven by convenience goods particularly in the food and grocery sector. However, it will underperform against the overall growth of total physical sales in the UK over the next five years, which will be driven by retail parks and supermalls, according to GlobalData.

The company’s report: ‘UK Town Centres 2017-2022’ reveals that shoppers are looking to more attractive physical locations as well as the online channel to satisfy rising expectations for experience, product choice and convenience. This is particularly true for clothing and footwear – the sector’s spend in town centres is forecast to decline by 2.1% in 2018. Occupied retail space in UK town centres is estimated to decline by 0.8% in 2018 as retailers choose to close underperforming stores in High Street locations where footfall has weakened and they continue to focus investment on destination stores in more attractive locations, while food service and leisure operators also move in to satisfy changing consumer needs.

Charlotte Pearce, Retail Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Town centres are losing their appeal as the online channel is increasingly offering shoppers greater convenience and supermalls like Westfield Stratford are providing a superior all-round experience for consumers looking to shop, dine and socialise in one place. With retailers investing in flagship stores in these key locations, town centre stores are often neglected, particularly by retailers with a large number of stores. As these regional stores become less attractive over time, it is inevitable that spend will shift to more attractive channels which offer a greater experience for shoppers.”

Food and grocery expenditure in town centres will rise 3.6% in 2018, making it the fastest-growing area. It will benefit from overall growth in the sector and the continued shift in consumer behaviour towards top-up shops and purchases of food-for-tonight and food-on-the-go items, following investment from grocers. Pearce comments: “Food and grocery spend will prop up the town centres market while non-food sales in these locations will continue to decline as more clothing and footwear retailers close underperforming stores in the channel. Though this can have a damaging effect on a town centre, it presents an opportunity for other retailers to move in and capture shopper spend. While rising costs are becoming increasingly problematic for retailers, investment in smaller town centre stores is needed in order for these locations to remain an attractive destination for shoppers. Despite waning appeal, town centres are still a key retail location, accounting for more than a third of total retail spend in the UK in 2017.”

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