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High streets to recover as retail occupancy set to rise

High streets across the UK will gradually recover over the next seven years as the number of empty shops decreases from 12% of total floor space to 7%, according to property experts.

Global property company Colliers International predicts the retail occupancy level will rise by 5% by 2020, bringing it in line with a level last experienced in 2006.

Russell Francis, director at Colliers International, said that the recovery will be “selective”, and centred on “major town centres”.  He added: “The recovery will largely be driven by a significant increase in the GB population (3.3 million additional people by 2020) and modest economic and expenditure growth.”

Colliers International predicts that a new wave of retail development will start in four to five years’ time, concentrated in “major regional centres” such as Victoria Gate in Leeds.  The north east of England will see only a 5% increase in population and may only see little new development.

The greatest beneficiary of population and economic growth will be London where the population is estimated to grow by about 20%.

Francis also indicated that internet sales will increase from 13% of expenditure to 20% in the next seven years, but the growth will then “level off” and “no longer be as much of a threat” to high street retailers.

Mark Charlton, Colliers International Head of Research and Forecasting, said: “The day of new retailers entering into the UK and rolling 300 new outlets is over.  The new model is to open 20-50 units in the major retail centres and to have a strong internet presence that runs symbiotically, providing the consumer with both traditional and online shopping options.”

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