With residential property, it is often said that location accounts for all three of the most important measures. Could retail landlords, currently under severe pressure, especially on the high street, learn from this mantra too – not least to counter the rise of online shopping?
Of course, it’s not possible to physically pick up a high street and relocate it somewhere more convenient. As they say, we are where we are, in both senses.
However, two major KPIs for retail landlords are footfall and a customer profile that matches the asset management proposition. By accentuating the positives for customers and investing in ease of access, location can be turned into a compelling reason to put down the smartphone or switch off the screen to make a visit, thereby driving footfall. That’s why CACI is projecting more than 20 million visitors a year to Wembley Park by 2022, putting it ahead of Camden and even London Victoria.
The future of physical retailing is less transactional; more experiential. Encouragingly, 85% of consumers prefer to shop at physical stores versus online, according to research by TimeTrade. The recent Bill Grimsey Review talked about community hubs that include housing, offices and some shops. He said that retail destinations “must create their own unique reason for communities to gather there – being interesting and engaging and altogether a compelling and great experience”.
His term “to gather there” relates to sociability, leisure and, importantly, ease of access. Picture the typical family breakfast table debate: “What shall we do today?” This usually results in some great suggestions being rejected because “it’s such a pain to get there”.
In trying to overcome the objections that a landlord needs to consider, there are two groups of factors: those elements that are under someone else’s control and those within its own control.
Most good landlords work closely with their local authorities and the public sector to ensure infrastructure matches the aspirations of a destination. This can include investment in local transport facilities, such as a bus station or car park, as part of the overall development cost to supplement the public purse.
After all, get it right and the adage of ‘if we build it, they will come’ comes true. That’s why we emphasise the three tube lines, two train lines and eight bus routes serving the Wembley Park area to ensure the breakfast table debate is not ill-informed about ease of access. This is significant because more than 70% of our visitors travel here on public transport.
Retail is best connected
While it’s true that the most successful schemes are the best connected, an imaginative landlord will add value to the existing infrastructure, irrespective of availability. For example, Wembley Park’s London Designer Outlet, the capital’s leading fashion and lifestyle outlet centre, has organised free branded shuttle buses from the nearby stations at peak periods, provided incentives for car drivers using the ample onsite car parking and launched Dropit, the app-based delivery service, to save customers carrying their bags home. Altogether, it means the hassle factor need not be part of the family breakfast table debate.
At a time when retail needs all the help it can get, leveraging the location and making access as easy as possible at retail destinations across the country can be the difference between customers enjoying the vibrancy or landlords worrying about too many voids. Wise investment and working with the public sector can ensure ease of access for visitors, strengthening footfall. By supplementing the location with timely initiatives and well-thought-out customer support, a retail, dining or leisure experience can be memorable and worth repeating – to the benefit of everyone.