The Reinvention of the High Street

The High Street with shops and residential

We will certainly be seeing it in Canterbury High Street, along with a lot of other towns, where the Debenhams store, with a partial frontage onto the prime High Street, is now being turned into student flats.

It was after all, how the High Street used to look back in the 50s, before the age of multiple retail clones destroyed the appearance of many of our High Streets and then lost their individuality over the last 70 years.

Shopkeepers have got to learn the hard lesson to stop just stacking product on shelving and expecting sales, when it is easier and possibly cheaper to do shop online, without the aggravation of driving into a town centre, paying perhaps £5, for parking, while fiddling around with your credit card or cash.

High Street Retailers must have immersive interactive shop experience and linked to their websites, as online sales platforms and influencers especially can show product much better.

Influencers have had a major impact on the younger generation and retailers must associate with them to promote their products as this is almost the sole way of promoting their products successfully particularly in fashion. This sales medium has taken over the formally trusted methods of normally advertising one’s product.

The economy has been kept going by the government with unprecedented stimulus measures and central banks to keep credit flowing.

Despite the lockdown there is still a huge demand for shop property investment at the Auctions partly because other than shares, there are few ways to make any return on your capital other than investing in new companies.

Locked-down households are desperate to spend and will do so when lockdown ends for those fortunate enough to still be employed.

The Internet & Disrupters

Retail disruptors have been accelerated 10 years, with High Street brands having been gobbled up by the likes of Boohoo and thus disappearing for the time being online.

Some of these brands will re- populate the High Street again, but in more limited numbers next time.

Anyone without a good digital platform as a retailer has made it almost impossible to survive.

Home delivery aps too like Just Eat, have forced restaurants to use them and they have become the brand shoppers look for first.

It is a much better strategy long term to have your own delivery systems, as Amazon just promote brands that make the most money for them and brands can disappear as others clone them.

Next have proved this by becoming a multi brand platform, having taken a 25% share in Reiss and now is one of the most successful online retailers

It is surprising, however, how weak some of the big stores Internet websites are such as Fenwicks and Harrods.

One the biggest trends are companies like Klarna, the credit business that enables retailers to make “buy now, pay later” offers to customers.

So, who is left on the High Street?

It is not all gloom and doom, as the pulled teeth of the High Street are allowing gaps to be filled by the new kids on the block.

Screwfix is one example moving into the High Street as well as Trade Parks.


There will still be plenty of demand for hairdressers and beauty parlours and anybody that provides a specialist service, which requires customer interaction, such as Clarks Shoes.

Even they went into CVA but are now owned by a Chinese company and are reconfiguring the way they operate internationally. There will be more emphasis on their franchisees for the take up of new or existing Clarks shops.

Essential retailers have done well, but even pharmacists have been affected, as counter sales have fallen by 60% as quite a few patients have ordered online, not wishing to go into that local chemist shop anyway.

This is a trend that Amazon pharmacy wishes to exploit, with a launching their own website in the UK. They will have difficulties though as the UK drugs market is regulated, unlike in the US market, where huge discounts can be given on drugs

Sectors doing well are cycles, like Nip Nip and Balfe’s Bikes, to pet shops, who have had a boom in lockdown.

We fear though for all the abandoned pets when lockdown ends as some people are bound to get bored with their purchases. Dog rescue centres will boom sadly.


We have even seen today a requirement for central London for a shop to be taken for a cookery school.

IKEA are moving into the High Street because home sales in lockdown have boomed, as people have nothing else to spend their money on!

They bought a whole shopping centre in Hammersmith The Broadway, to do so, which was a mega million purchase, being a scheme of about 100 shops

Luxury business will remain in places like Bond Street, an oasis of high-quality fashion.

We see too a future for smaller department stores like Hoopers, as an upmarket small Department Store in places like Tunbridge Wells and Wilmslow, fulfilling the need of a day out.


Card shops will return to the market  but many like Cards Galore, will have suffered considerably during the pandemic

Some online companies have seen a 44 per cent rise in sales and one company has 60 per cent of the UK’s online card market — but only 10 per cent of the market is online now.

There is a clear shut down of all the turf accountants with William Hill 600’s or so shops on the market and Ladbrokes to close most of their UK shops.

888 Holdings an online bookie by comparison has a full suite of casino, poker, and sports betting offerings for its growing army of punters. Its 2020 revenues jumped by 52 per cent and pre-tax profits more than doubled.

All the Banks are accelerating UK branch closures apart from Metro Bank, which has it own troubles anyway, with most not renewing their leases on expiry, or taking the opportunity to break, where they can and forcing everyone online and trying to remove telephone banking too.

There is scope for a new High Street bank entry or maybe even the Post Office should get their act together as they have a wonderful opportunity to take over from the banks now!

UK Tourism

International travel is unlikely to restart until 2022 and one report suggest U.S. citizens will not travel until 2023 if all goes well

This will have a huge impact on London and other major tourist spots such as Edinburgh and Windsor, which have in the past relied on a heavy tourist traffic plus many Chinese holidaymakers too.

Town Centre recovery needs

Town centres have got to give free car parking as it is too easy to go to a retail park or the Bluewaters of this world, where there are no car parking charges.

Years ago, Morpeth town introduced free car parking for about four hours, with one or two other local northern towns and it transformed footfall.

During the pandemic as only, essential shops were open and much car parking was free and certainly encouraged more people to use their cars ironically.

Few local authorities have adopted a policy of free parking and continue to indirectly destroy their own rating income from shops as a result!

This is not rocket science, but local authorities are more interested in producing as much revenue for car parking, while ignoring the implications of continuing to turn away shoppers!

Towns have also got to have more green spaces, seating and toilets to become more attractive to shoppers and a constant police or guard presence to keep trouble away.

Seating areas

The uglier the town, the worst a High Street will fare in the future.

You have got to hand it to HRH Prince Charles as he was right all along about the quality of new architecture.

Rates have got to be addressed as well by the government before the High Street disappears into a series of ghost towns!

The Café/Restaurant sector will bounce back, big time

Brands have done well that offer more unusual menus, such as Taco Bell, but we have seen a demise of the Pizza Expresses and Pizza Huts of this world, who had so many branches and were overexposed in the pandemic and collapsed and frankly got boring too.

Delivery businesses have boomed too and the c £7 billion value likely to be placed on Deliveroo’s initial public offering says it all.

Domino’s Pizza has done exceptionally well, as they go into very secondary positions, simply using their shops as dark kitchens, with sales last year up to £1.35 billion pre-tax profits rose to £101.2 million after £9 million of Covid-related costs.

It is not just the big, dedicated delivery companies that are cashing in. A host of pub and restaurant chains and individual establishments have responded to the shutdown by turning their hand to delivery.

Tacobell and Subway

Many pubs and restaurants are fully booked as soon as they can reopen getting through to Christmas, which is part of the reason there is such a boom in cafes and restaurants looking for High Street space now.

Companies like Watch House, with “cool” coffee bars, will gradually replace the very staid Starbucks and Costa Coffee on our High Streets.

Coffee bars

Drive Thrus, are the flavour of the decade and all the fast food brands want to concentrate on those in the future, from the Burger Kings, to KFCs, to the Costas of this world.

They have boomed, big time, in the pandemic with often 50 car queues in most drive thrus, as people are desperate for somebody to cook for them !

Burger King

Grocery Retail


There has been a huge boom in food sales during the pandemic, with some companies reporting profits 50% up, as people were able to go there as essential shops, plus a huge increase in door-to-door delivery, to the extent that it is often now not possible to book a delivery slot.

The explosion in demand for delivery slots, during the pandemic has resulted in the size of the online market doubling in months.

The trend will continue but stabilised at a slightly lesser level, as at the end of the day people like human interaction, many even depend on it for their sole contact with the outside world.

There will be a continuing trend though for mini supermarkets in local town centres as the larger food shop may stay online more in the future, now we have all got used to it.

Tesco, for example repaid all their free rates benefit to the government as many of the other groups have as well in recognition that they did not need rate support gibe by the government.  



We have already seen brands reinvent themselves and Marks and Spencer are a case in point.

Apart from buying in the Jaeger brand and becoming multi brand in fashion, they are now looking for food stores throughout the country.

They are looking in London for a store Size 6-25,000 sq ft, but outside London small supermarkets of 10,000 sq ft plus.

In teaming up with Ocado they have removed the Waitrose link, leaving John Lewis with their own troubles and with another 10 Department stores due to be closed.

Waitrose have, however, announced they will now introduce a small JL homeware offer into their stores, which they trailed a long time ago in their Sevenoaks Store, which is on 2 levels.

The High Street entrance level of about 1000 sq ft for home wear and then the main a supermarket at first floor with a multi-Storey car park feeding in at the back.

We are also seeing Oseyo linked to the huge H Mart South Korean group, providing heathy lifestyle Asian food expanding swiftly on our High Streets.


Amazon are getting into the act too with their scanned payment system, so on scanning your credit card on entry you do nothing else and just leave with your goods.

Anyone camera shy – be warned!

Amazon Just Walk Out

Charity Shops

Charity Shops

Whilst the sector has been locked down as they were not essential traders, a lot of the charity shops are now looking to expand again.

The Salvation Army in the North are looking for large former Maplin or convenience stores on main arterial routes, retail parks, or high traffic flow roads with high visibility, car parking and 10-year leases with five-year tenants’ breaks.

Age UK are after temporary 3,000-15,000 sq ft fitted units in Retail Parks/Shopping Parks/Roadside Retail Units with 9-12 months term certain, rolling breaks thereafter.

They will cover property costs rates, service charge, insurance.

British Heart Foundation are still interested in their large format concept for second hand electrical and home furnishing goods.

There will always be demand for Charity shops as they give good value, sheltered to greater extent on rates and offer service, which in these days of being eco-friendly and recycled goods has got to be a plus !

Value Retailers

Savers and Primark

The likes of Savers and Primark are likely to bounce back as well as the Poundstretchers of this world as their value competes with online business while giving a shopping experience which you never get online. Primark made a deliberate decision not to go online and they have been successful at it so far.

Many value retailers too have been able to trade during the pandemic because they sold an element of food.

Suburban towns

What is interesting is that we are seeing pressure in suburban towns for the take up of retail space as people in the pandemic have preferred to shop locally, rather than going into big city centres.

This trend is expected to remain and with possibly less visits into London and major centres long term.

Shop Rents

Rent’s sub £50,000 per annum are now very popular.

Where landlords have vacant properties there is the pull of not wishing to have the capital values reduced, so many have been reluctant to do anything, unless they are forced to.

Most landlords have not been receiving income during the moratorium from their tenants, with the notable exceptions of banks, pharmacists and food, as the pandemic’s essential traders.

Many landlords have been forced to grant concessions reducing rent for three to six months’ rent free. Others in London have dropped the rent by 50% knowing that there is no trade whatsoever and hoping that everything will recover in about 2 years’ time.

Very few landlords in practise are prepared to accept turnover rents, despite a lot of talk about it and Caffe Nero’s CVA is perhaps a case in point, where we imagine a lot of landlords have taken back units, rather than having to accept a de minimis deal on a turnover basis.

We have seen far too many CVA’s which seems to be the most popular approach understandably to retailers divesting themselves of unwanted space.

On the one hand you can have virtually any shop in Oxford Street now at about 20% of previous headline rents but will get gazumped in Kingston-upon-Thames which has suddenly become flavour of the month, reflecting some suburban town booms.

Retail lease lengths

Very few retailers will now take more than a 10-year lease and virtually all will want a break at year 10 and some are even demanding a break at year 3 and certainly at year 5.

The exceptions to this are restaurants who will always angle for at least 15 years, because of the higher capital investment cost and the need to write off expensive fitouts. They will still want options to break though. All landlords are having to give rent frees up front and now it is not unusual for nine months to be granted initially to try and get over the pandemic.

Retail Parks

Are holding up although some of the previous occupiers are dead but will be replaced by the likes of the Mountain Warehouses and Holland and Barrett’s of this world.

Outlet Centres

Outlet centres

Will be more popular than ever when shops open again, as they offer cheap deals on known designer brands.

Most brands make specifically for outlet centres, so that their product is not the ones you may find in the High Street or online.

McArthur Glen are though during the pandemic doing a virtual shopping mall, so that you can order online which is a trend may also continue post pandemic!

Happy Shopping to you all …………

20.3.2021 WS

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