02 Mar 2021 | Covid-19 | High Street | Leasing and Commercial

Retail property sets sights on recovery

There’s no hiding that 2020 was a tough year for retail property. 

The series of lockdownhave caused significant hardship for high street businesses up and down the country. Those property owners reliant on income from embattled occupiers have tried to show forbearance where they can, but they have commitments of their own to meet to lenders and investors. 

The Government’s response to the crisis didn’t always help either, with rushed policymaking leading to measures that hurt our industry; most notably the commercial property moratoriums.  

And all this has come on top of the structural trends which have been moving consumers online for years 

Meeting new challenges 

There is though some light at the end of the tunnel.  

Alongside the pressures it places on physical retail, the shift to online provides opportunities to evolve how customers use physical stores and the places that our sector curates 

There are also now opportunities to explore new roles for property owners as brand partners and new leasing models which can bind incentives for successallowing both parties to share in the great value that having a physical offering brings.  

Nobody could doubt too that there’ll be a resurgence of people to the high street once the crisis is over. Pent up demand will surely give innovative new businesses the best possible start in life and will, at least partially, mitigate the impact the crisis has had on existing ones.  

In order to really take advantage of these opportunities though, the retail property sector needs to speak loudly and clearly to its customers and to policymakers about what it wants the future to look likeWhile there’s no doubt we’ve got too many shops in the UK, they are and will always be a core part of any town centre. Retail property owners will play a critical role in helping places adapt to the economic and social demands of the 21st Century. It’s vital that their voice is heard at this time of great change. 

The new BPF Retail Board 

To give retail property owners a powerful new voicethe BPF has recently established a new Retail Board, which brings together leaders from some of the largest and most influential retail property owners in the country.  

Now, neither retail property nor the challenges facing it are new to the BPF. We’ve been working on issues like business rates, Company Voluntary Arrangements and town centre adaptation for years.  

What’s new is a sense amongst our members, amongst retailers and amongst government that now is the time to act with renewed vigour to the issues we’re facing. Changes that would have come over ten years are coming in one and our Retail Board wants the sector to move ten times as quickly to address them. 

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Laurence Raeburn-Smith Head of Retail Policy