Stand by for a High Street revival

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Half the empty shops on one of the West’s typical High Streets could be open for business and trading again by the end of the year, according to King Sturge.

“Overall vacancy rates may have risen as high as 20 per cent during 2009 but we predict they will be as low as 10-12 per cent by the end of 2010,” says James Woodard, a senior associate in the retail team at the firm’s Bristol office.

“Retailers have been through a very difficult period, particularly the moment 12 months ago when there was a big shake-out – most notably Woolworths closed around 800 stores, leaving some very big holes in the High Street.

“A number of retailers remain vulnerable and further casualties are to be expected in the coming months – but crucially, not on a similar scale to the period when high-profile casualties included Borders and First Quench.”

Mr Woodard told the firm’s annual media briefing in Bristol that he expects tenant-friendly deals to play a major part in the High Street recovery.

“Certainly at the moment there are still excellent packages available to retailers and there are retailers who will be deal-led,” he said.

Demand would be led by convenience stores which are the most acquisitive sector of the market, he predicted.

“Tesco is planning to continue its aggressive programme and Sainsburys is now looking to try and catch up. At the same time Waitrose has confirmed it will be entering this sector with ten convenience stores nationally, in 2010.

“Discount retailers also continue to plug gaps with Poundland seeking 50 new stores this year – and I expect other retailers to optimise their portfolios even if they are not aggressively acquiring.”

Out of town, said Mr Woodard, there is also a surprisingly strong list of acquiring retailers including John Lewis, Next Home, TK Maxx and Pets at Home, which has just announced a desire for a further 20 stores this year and 100 in the next five.

“Turning to the West’s main shopping centres, Cabot Circus in Bristol has just celebrated its first anniversary and while there have been a few casualties, the scheme looks fantastic and is a great asset to the city.

“Even a large space that would not let to retailers was ultimately let to a mini-golf operator who is enjoying great business and also providing footfall to a part of the scheme that was previously quiet.

“Elsewhere in the region we would argue that other towns with new, modern shopping centres, such as Gloucester and Bath, are ready for the economic recovery – and perhaps in a better position than those without existing large-scale, new retail development, such as Taunton, Barnstaple or Yeovil.

“The retail sector clearly took a hit during the long, wet ‘barbecue summer’ of 2009 and, indeed, the two poor summers before. But it can now look forward to good profitability in 2010 if retailers take the right deals when they are available and choose the right spots in the new centres.” thanks RetailBulletin


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