Take a walk down any High Street in the UK and you’ll soon see how people’s shopping behaviours have changed.
Sadly, many big names and high street favourites have disappeared from towns and cities during the pandemic, but some have moved to out-of-town retails parks.
The lockdowns have certainly had an effect, but figures are already indicating that with restrictions easing, shoppers are flocking back to the shops. In April 2021 non-essential retail resumed, overall retail footfall in the UK was back up to 80% of 2019 numbers.
For retail parks, the stats were even more positive, with footfall figures up 102% on the previous year.1
Retail park life
Retail parks began springing up in the 1980s, as locations where retailers offering larger goods, such as furniture and DIY materials would establish themselves.
Over time, these evolved into the blend of different retail, leisure and food and drink outlets that we see today. With the mix of shops, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and drive–through fast food joints, they’ve become destinations for families to spend whole days out.
The typical retail park is around 300,000sq ft in size, but there are already eight in the UK that are over 500,000sq ft. This number looks set to grow – as usage and demand increase.2
The attractions of a retail park for shoppers are obvious – longer opening hours, lots of places to take a coffee break or grab a bite to eat alongside all the shops they need. Plus of course, free parking.
The pandemic has made us all think more about our personal space. And retail parks can offer more of it to shoppers – with larger stores and easier social distancing. Our research showed that 25% of people would feel more confident shopping in-store if the store actively enforced social distancing more than two metres apart.3
There are attractions for retailers too – high street rents and rates are often prohibitive. Retail parks generally offer more space for bigger stores. And parking for staff is generally easier (and less expensive) in a retail park than in a town centre.
But it isn’t always that simple! Retailers need to consider carefully whether the high street is right for them. The decision between the location - the high street or at your nearest retail park is an important one and could affect the success of their business. However, retailers who succeed are those who can adapt to the ever–changing consumer landscape – and continue to meet the demands of their customers for a great buying experience.
A great buying experience takes multiple customer preferences into consideration – it’s about the in-store ambience, omnichannel touch points, and making sure the customer can pay in the way they prefer. Retailers also have the challenge of online shopping, but by embracing services such as ‘click and collect,’ and highlighting the convenience of retail parks – free parking and ease of access, retailers could see their businesses grow from strength to strength.