Retail shop applications drop 9%

Applications for the development of new retail stores fell nine per cent in the past year, from 7,360 to 6,700.

Research by commercial law firm EMW revealed that applications in 2015/16 fell for the seventh consecutive year. Applications have dropped by almost half (44 per cent) compared with the pre-recession peak of 11,900 in 2008/09.

EMW attributes the fall to high-street retailers continuing to suffer a loss of market share to e-commerce companies.

It also claimed that Brexit could add extra pressure to the sector.

Despite traditional retailers increasing their focus on the expansion of online services, many are still failing to “compete effectively” with online retailers, according to EMW.

“With online retailers continuing to win market share, high-street firms have less of an appetite to open new shops, instead opting to develop online services or squeeze extra profits from existing space by changing the shopping experience or repurposing stores to act more as showrooms or collection points,” said EMW principal Aimee Barrable.

“Recent high-profile closures [BHS and Austin Reed] will lead to more retail space becoming available on the market. Those retailers still looking to expand their high-street presence might look to acquire some of these recently vacated stores, instead of applying for any new retail developments.

“Also, it may be that many retailers wait before committing to any new shop developments until they have a clearer picture of the economy in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.”

Ms Barrable added: “In shifting focus away from high-street stores towards digital offerings, retailers are continuing to adapt to changing consumer habits as they move even more towards online shopping and home deliveries.

“It seems that online retailers and those who are more successful at building a complementary online presence make their digital offering a major part of their business model – they see it as key to their success. As a result, more traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers are now putting even greater effort into their online presence, instead of looking to expand their property portfolio.”