When ecommerce started to take off 15 years ago, some commentators were quick to declare it the death knell for physical stores.
Recently, however, hysteria has made way for cautious optimism. It wasn’t the end of bricks-and-mortar retail, after all.
What it has done, though, is sort the wheat from the chaff and kickstart an unprecedented period of retail innovation and evolution.
Ecommerce has metamorphosed from being the death of physical retail to the facilitator of its progression.
But there are still murmurings of ‘too many shops’ and ‘change of use’, exacerbated this year by tales of US malls closing at a frightening rate.
So is there another, even more pronounced, wave of upheaval on the horizon?
Recent activity in the UK would suggest not. Yes, there’s an oversupply of retail space, but that isn’t to say there isn’t still demand for the right space in the right schemes in the right locations.
Landsec and The Crown Estate have just delivered the 800,000 sq ft Westgate Oxford; a £600m extension of Westfield London is under way; and on the outlet side, McArthurGlen has pressed the button on a number of major extensions and is looking for further opportunities to expand.
What developers and landlords are doing is creating places that offer more than just a place to shop. They have diversified their offerings - by tapping trends such as competitive socialising, for instance - and created day-out destinations. As CBRE’s Mark Disney says, shopping centres should provide different things for different people at different times.
There is cause for optimism but landlords will need to up the ante to stay ahead.