The pandemic has been challenging for many retailers and landlords, but it has also had a positive and progressive impact on trends within the industry.
Lockdown restrictions have increased demand for a more localised retail offer that caters to the community and responds to their needs as consumer behaviours change.
We are anticipating a spending surge when retail reopens on 12 April, as a result of pent-up demand brought on by the pandemic shopping restrictions imposed on physical stores and with an increase in consumer finances. Reports from a largely Covid-recovered China indicate that consumer boom is on the way for countries moving out of retail-lockdown restrictions, the National Retail Federation predicts. In a survey of 1,000 UK consumers on 4-10 January by retail consultancy CACI, 74% reported that their finances had stayed the same or improved as a result of the pandemic.
We have also been listening to predictions on how this will translate into physical stores. Research by retail software company Brightpearl indicates that 63% of consumers will buy from more locally based businesses over the next 12 months, while 60% plan to increase shopping with independent high street retailers. Sloane Stanley’s “shops on demand” leasing strategy, which offers pop-up shops and short-term flexible leases, aims to respond to changing consumer preferences by creating a more relevant, localised offer of independent and established retailers for our community, so residents do not need to travel to get what they want.
We have worked and supported many retailers during the pandemic. We recently welcomed clothing concept The Sustainable Pop Up to the estate, in response to consumers’ desire to shop more sustainably, as well as wholesaler Gong (pop-up), which provides fashionable interiors as people redecorate homes in lockdown, but also supporting the brand in pivoting to a consumer audience to maintain trading.
At the same time, luxury womenswear label Vilshenko, which operated a socially distanced pop-up store, has now taken a permanent shop.
Our high residential footfall and affluent demographic appeal to many. We need to attract the right brands with our commercial leases, but we understand the need to remain accessible, by offering short-term leases, pop-ups or turnover-based rents.
We have always pioneered pop-ups, and support tenants to invest in our community and transition to full bricks-and-mortar tenancies where relevant. We also celebrate brands that choose a seasonal recurring pop-up offer. This flexible approach has transitioned over to our longer-term leases, and we now consider shorter terms to give brands flexibility.
We also offer white boxed units, turnover-based rents and consider breaks built around business models. The aim of our flexible strategy is to discover and nurture many exciting future independents and established retailers that can enrich our estate in the longer term.
The pandemic has proven, more than ever, the need to facilitate a flexible and responsive “shops on demand” offer which can undulate with consumer demand as well as our tenant’s offer. We must acknowledge the changing landscape, working together and responding to trends and demand in the short term, constantly adapting to best support our retail tenants and the needs of our consumers in the long term.