Thursday, 24 September 2015

Hurrah! The High Street is saved! The man from Savills says so!

The man at Savill's who sells retail property thinks the high street is fine:

There is now a clear consensus that the rise of online retail is not killing the UK high street. In fact, in some cases, the internet is helping to promote the need for retail space as the boundaries between online and bricks and mortar become increasingly blurred.

Now the blog in question is pretty dreadful. It presents some half-baked statistics, carefully selected to suggest that all is just hunky-dory on the High Street. Stuff about the growth in click-and-collect (think about this - why should I go five miles to the high street to collect when there's a convenient shop on the corner) and something called 'O2O' - 'online-to-offline'.

This is, at best, wishful thinking and at worst actively misleading. I don't know which because Sean Gillies, the man from Savills in question, doesn't provide us with any evidence. I mean real evidence about rents, voids and vacancies not vague statements like:

It has also been reported that some retailers have found that opening a new store has resulted in an increase in online sales

Reported where? By whom? And on the basis of what evidence? Not this evidence I guess:

Without doubt this is due to both the challenge of the internet and the convenience of out-of-town locations for click-and-collect as they offer plentiful, accessible parking that is free of charge. Despite this, it is good news that the vacancy rate has increased only slightly, to 10.4 per cent; although the number of retail leases that are due to expire over this year suggests that this could rise further over the coming months - particularly as consumers are now demanding discounts, which squeeze margins and adversely impact profitability and long term business sustainability.

Now it's true that retail space in the better high streets now appeals to the growing market for the shop as a brand marketing tool but this does little or nothing for less appealing locations lacking in the right demographic.

I know Savills have shops to rent but when their head of retail pushes a retail recovery on such flimsy evidence we really should question the credence given to its opinion.


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