The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published an Information Note entitled 'High Streets - Beyond Retail', which looks at the decline of retailing on the High Street and in town centres and proposes possible solutions to help reverse the negative trend.
The aim of the Information Note is to provide guidance to surveyors on the key issues arising in High Streets and town centres at a time when the demand for existing retail space in many centres is declining. The decline has implications not just for empty shop units, but also the health of the trading environment that occupied units rely on. The Note seeks to guide surveyors on how they can respond to this challenging environment.
While the focus is on surveyors, the problem and its solution involve how the high street is planned, developed and managed. The considerations that arise are therefore relevant to a range of parties, from landlords and tenants to those involved in the areas of law and planning.
The Note posits various reasons for the decline in high streets and town centres:
Decline in consumer spending: the 2008 financial crisis has left consumers with less money to spend. Even under a strong economy the pre-2008 retail growth may be difficult to reproduce, as it is widely accepted such growth was financed by an unsustainable increase in household debt. Added to this is an ageing population with older people historically spending less on consumer goods. Changes in consumer behaviour: the growth of internet shopping has reduced the dependency on high street shopping, as has car ownership which has made out-of-town shopping more accessible. The movement of women into the workforce has further decreased daytime footfall and consequent spending in town centres. Changes in the structure of the retail industry: shopping centres and retail parks have moved trade away from the high street, as has the diversification of goods sold by supermarkets. The rise in e-commerce means not only the online purchase of physical products that used to be sold in shops, but also the buying of electronic substitutes of physical products- MP3s and ebooks instead of CDs and hardbacks. The Strategy
The Note looks at who is in charge of the town centre, identifying that while local authorities used to play a lead role in managing town centres, they now face revenue shortfalls limiting their ability to take substantive action.
This means greater private sector...