Your Reflect - 5th January 2017

Published: 5th January 2017 12:16
Author: Chris Workman © JDA & GA 2016-2019

A Happy New Year to you all.

I do hope that the holidays were a joyful experience – both personally and professionally – and that 2017 brings health, happiness and, of course, profits to each and every one of you!

Federation House resembles a Royal Mail sorting office at the moment. From ripping the paper from our own presents, we are now carefully unwrapping samples of all shortlisted Gift of the Year entries ahead of the final round of judging next Thursday. How exciting

Build flats on retail parks

Clive Aslet has suggested in The Times that retail parks should be redeveloped with blocks of flats, four or five storeys high, around courtyards and gardens.

He argued that this would not only increase housebuilding but also make homes more affordable.

I suspect that Aslet's Thunderer column in the paper will chime with the views of many independent retailers and shoppers.

He wrote: "Retail parks were the bête noire of the 1980s and 1990s. They’re the vampires that have sucked the blood from the high street, reducing town centres to ghosts of their former selves."

"Well, their days are numbered. Shopping online is killing them. The new consumer doesn't want to spend a couple of hours in a superstore, then cart the bags home, when the same shop can be delivered at the click of a mouse."

He continued his rant, describing retail parks as "the new rust belt: joyless places that are not even planted with trees, because greenery would reduce the ability to catch the eye of the motorist, speeding past on the ring road or motorway".

In the United States some are already being redeveloped and Aslet believes that the government white paper on new homes should encourage that to happen here. "Keep the shops, if they're needed, but build two or three storeys of housing above them and put the car parking underground."

His views provoked letters of support in the paper

One woman wrote: "I've always been struck by how vast these ugly hangar-like outlets are, how few customers visit, particularly midweek, and how tedious work must consequently be for the sales staff." That struck me as a little odd. Holding such an opinion, one wonders why on earth she bothered to shop there!

Redeveloping retail parks may the first step in ridding us of these "abominations" and offer one solution to the housing problem. But it won't turn back the clock to the heady days of high street retailing.

In-store and online trading

There will, though, always be room for independent gift shops that are flexible, on-trend and give great service. But there’s no stopping the online revolution and those bricks-and-mortar retailers, however small, which take that on board and use the web, even in a limited way, will have an advantage over those that don’t.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that the average weekly spending online in November 2016 was £1.1 billion – an increase of 24.9% compared with November 2015.

And the amount spent online accounted for 15.8% of all retail spending, excluding automotive fuel, compared with 13.3% in November 2015.

A Saturday success

I was hoping to bring you good news about footfall, but visits to shopping centres fell by a half on New Year’s Day compared to the same day in 2016, while shopper numbers on high streets were down by 12.7% year on year, according to Springboard retail intelligence.

The overall decline of 23.8% couldn't entirely be blamed on the weather and bank holiday trading hours. The Black Friday factor, earlier than usual discounting and the demise of the January sales are all expected to have contributed to poor post-Christmas footfall – as well as, of course, online shopping.

Retailers had already been disappointed by footfall on the festive trading days.

It was down 5.9% for Christmas Eve and reflected a wider trend seen in 2016 of a decline across all retail destinations but a modest bounce back on the high street. Even the peak trading day of 23rd December saw a drop in footfall from the same day last year of 5.5%.

Boxing Day was similarly disappointing with a decline across all destinations of 7.3% YOY. The biggest contributors to this decrease were shopping centres with footfall down 19.9% overall – in line with the general trend which saw them fall out of favour last year.

Data from PCA Predict shows that online transactions were up 6.2% YOY on Boxing Day, thus impacting footfall, which ShopperTrak said was a whopping -14%. Its director, Steve Richardson, commented that "the unprecedented levels of extended pre-Christmas discounting" by retailers may have resulted in sales 'fatigue' amongst shoppers.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

Sarah Ward Signature
Sarah Ward
Chief Executive

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Last Updated 5th January 2017
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