The pandemic has accelerated a shift in the way consumers interact with physical space, with increased spending online and working from home having an impact on town and city centres up and down the country.
Town and city centres have adapted for centuries on the whims of consumer behaviour, so don’t expect vacant Debenhams stores to remain as the face of ailing highstreets for the long-term.
Local demographics do however mean that some towns and cities are better placed to adapt and benefit from coming changes than others.
PropertyWeek’s annual Hot Retail Index highlights the top 100 towns and cities with the greatest opportunities to reimagine themselves with a greater focus on food, drink, leisure and convenience.
The coastal town of Bournemouth takes the top spot thanks to its highly mobile population. It also benefits from being the South’s tourist hotspot, that coupled with its high population of commuters means there is huge growth opportunity within the town to grow the leisure and hospitality space
The largest retail destination in Scotland ranks second in 2021. There is scope in the city to grow its leisure offering to take advantage of the very strong leisure spend available from residents. There is also potential to build its community and convenience propositions, with both sectors offering significant room for growth.
Brighton benefits from sizeable leisure budgets, both of its residents and its workers. Combined with a steady flow of tourists, there is plenty of room for growth in Brighton’s leisure sector. Consumers are the most likely of any in the country to embrace change, which should reassure any developer thinking of bringing new concepts to the city that they have a strong chance of succeeding.
Despite its population having less leisure spend available than our towns higher up the list, Romford has huge potential to be reimagined with a key focus on convenience. The upcoming shopping mall, Aklu Plaza, which is taking the vacant Debenhams unit, will satisfy consumer needs for world food and household essentials much more than the lots incumbents designer wares.
There is a clear opportunity in Chelmsford to diversify its offering particularly if it can repurpose the vacant Debenhams unit and adapt the overall offer to become more leisure-oriented. The catchment will respond positively to this given their affluence and high leisure spend available.