First of all, here at Silvaman, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for stopping by to take a look at our new website. Hopefully, you’ll find some time to get your teeth stuck into our shopfitting blog. This is where we’ll share our successes, our experiments, our surprises and our shop fit out news – nice and neatly packed into one perfect section. What can we say? We’re perfectionists.
We are currently seven months into 2018; so what’s going on? The retail stories grabbing the headlines are despondent, as they have been for the past decade. “Major retailers suffering record declines in sales against a sea of rising costs” and “an apocalypse of the high street steam rolling through towns the length of the country” seem to be all we are hearing, here at Silvaman.
However, it’s worth noting that reference to shops, stores or any other way of describing a retail outlet is always made to the ‘high street’, as opposed to the millennial term of ‘bricks & mortar’ stores. What we think would be more useful would be if the media, like the rest of the world, and shopfitting professionals in particular, see as distinct categories; think about ‘destination malls’, ‘outlet centres’, which are experiencing growth and flourishing, whilst ‘high street’ stores are experiencing growth only in certain geographical areas. You’ll soon see that the future of retail isn’t in jeopardy – the councils and town planners in charge of high streets across the UK simply need to use careful planning more effectively.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, it’s time to ask the big question – what has gone wrong?
There’s a plethora of answers to this question, dependent upon the individual retailer you focus on. Perhaps the issue is with management and financial control, or excessive physical space that is no longer a requirement to be a dominant retail behemoth.
To simplify the answer, we believe that, actually, nothing has gone wrong.
That’s right. There are numerous retailers that are experiencing growth, and are in a strong position financially. Those who are struggling have simply failed to adapt to the emerging market, and their customer’s needs. Ever hear the phrase “don’t believe everything you read”? The press are hype monsters, so if one store is struggling to cope in one particular area of the UK, it doesn’t mean your high street is going to collapse overnight, but they’d like you to think it is, because it makes for a great story, and sells papers.
Take a walk through some town high streets in the UK and you will see the evolution of the space. A decade ago, there was a fear driven by the media of the homogenisation of our retail spaces. We didn’t see the problem with this, because fully tenanted spaces create prosperous communities, whilst alleviating unemployment levels and creating further opportunities for local people. The real issue we saw was with the overall tenant mix; a town can never compete with the offering of a city. However, lessons can be learnt from how cities operate, and make the surrounding towns flourish.
Local Authority planning departments have a cross to bear in the situation. Often guided and aroused by the whiff of external investment, detailed, well thought out and long term strategic planning goes out of the window on the promise of fool’s gold. We can think of various instances in many towns that this has happened, and the result is disjointed towns and spaces with no cohesive strategy. If towns and their planners operated as a company, they would have gone to the wall a long time ago. They need to burden the shoulder of responsibility, in effect acting as the custodians of our towns. It’s time that they admit to their shortcomings, make tough decisions and use all of the tools available to them to regenerate the dire spaces they have become, not some half hearted feeble attempts to please, or to hide behind the latest buzz trends such as the failed Business Improvement Districts that suck the life and cash out of these areas.
Here at Silvaman, we partner with premium and luxury retail brands, and as a company we do not generally complete projects in the discussed high street areas, so why are we discussing the issue?
We have seen the evolution of the retail centres, in which the brands we partner with have developed over the past 20 years, catering for shoppers demands, focusing on the customer journey through the centre and carefully choregraphing every step they take into each retail space.
We’ve got a secret to tell you – it is not by luck that these centres are thriving and growing.
The UK’s retail centres have been growing and flourishing by putting together highly experienced and skilled teams that oversee and deliver both the centre and tenant works, to exceptional and consistent levels, that has created the ‘perfect environment’; and then consistently evolving and adapting what is available.
It’s the strategies deployed at successful centres which need to be embraced and emulated on high streets and in town centres across the country. Simple ideas such as zoning and categorizing sections by retail offer, and dedicating the spaces to specialized retailers. By setting design parameters in relation to storefronts, store fit outs that must be met, and better management of leases.
It is the disjointed ownership of the property in these towns and high streets that causes problems when trying to further progress these areas. Currently, landlords and agents do not seem to care who signs the lease, so long as the correct due diligence is undertaken and that market rent is paid. The local press thrive off the story of a new store opening; it is a positive story for them, but it will not stop the decline over the long term.
Philip Johnson is quoted as saying “the Future of Architecture is Culture”, and here at Silvaman, we believe that the future of our towns will be embracing the sentiment of this, and introducing some culture to the interior architecture of these spaces to drive growth and regeneration.
There is no quick fix solution, but by continuing as is will ultimately lead to a long and slow burnout from which the constancy of change will be even further away.
Got something you’d like to add? Let us know! Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Speak soon – The Team @ Silvaman.