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Vicky Hernandez of Royds Withy King

Independent stores may have brighter future than large chains – report

Commercial landlords, tenants and local government must work together to redefine what the high street is, according to a major new report on the future of retail by law firm Royds Withy King.

And stakeholders will need to offer a new type of experience, combining retail and hospitality with residential, healthcare and technology options, according to the Retail Reboot report.

The report draws together analysis from some the brightest minds in the retail industry and Royds Withy King’s own in-house expertise that examines the steps that must be taken to allow the British high street to thrive post-pandemic.

“We need to redefine exactly what it is we think our high streets are. We tend to see them as retail spaces; but historically they were centres of commerce with people living, socialising and working in them,” said David Paxton, real estate partner and head of repurposing at Royds Withy King.

Royds Withy King retail and real estate Partner Vicky Hernandez added: “There is a lot of talk about collaboration, but we need to see more action. The survival of the high street really does depend on all stakeholders being prepared to innovate and compromise. It’s not always comfortable but the old ways simply aren’t working anymore so we need to be bold”.

The report also concludes that successful independents may have a brighter future than their larger counterparts. This is due to independent retailers offering a more personalised and enjoyable experience to customers who have embraced shopping locally.

The report suggests, mixed-use retail hubs are potentially key for the future of independent business and allowing them to thrive.

Dawn Mannis, director and co-founder of The Sampler, an independent wine merchant, said: “Paradoxically the pandemic has been great for our business. We were deemed an ‘essential’ retailer during both lockdowns. Although we had to turn off our sampling machines we gained a significant number of new customers.

“Our challenge is now to retain those customers by building a more personalised relationship with them by capturing their data, find out about their preferences and phoning or emailing them when their favourite wines come into the shop. We certainly benefitted from people who wanted to shop locally and statistics show that over 70% of customers will continue to shop at their local independents”.

The report identifies business rates as remaining one of the biggest barriers to businesses opening, expanding or surviving. It concludes, the UK desperately needs a new, modern system of taxation that is fair to businesses that trade offline, online, or both if the high street is to survive.

The full report can be read at www.roydswithyking.com/shorthand_story/retail-reboot/

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