Editor: January brings its usual gloomy round of retail health warnings, with even food retailers reporting downward sales and the market bellwether of John Lewis deciding whether or not to pay its partners their annual bonus, but there are pockets of retail resilience.
Growing up outside London in a part of the country lacking out-of-town retail or Tesco Extras, shopping was done monthly on the high street, the food shopping made simple by parking next to a precinct with a Sainsbury’s. These trips were few, but large amounts of food were bought to shove in the freezer. This was convenient as well as being financially sound.
We also made regular trips to a favourite baker, for doughnuts. His shop had plenty of car parking at the front, next to a barber, grocer and fish-and-chip shop frequented by our family on Friday evenings. Free parking and proximity to the workplace and school run meant these visits were more frequent and kept the locality vibrant with the customer loyalty and friendliness local shopping brings.
Forty years on, visiting my parents at Christmas, the same parade still looked healthy, with a full car park and no empty units.
Commercial property investors have begun to notice the popularity of local convenience shopping, which is re-emerging as an asset class. The occupational resilience these locations have shown, with their diversified tenant mix is attracting a different type of investor.
They recognise that with the housebuilding boom in the shires and requirement planners have as part of the 106 agreement, there will still be plenty of opportunity to invest in a retail subsector that is simple to understand and positioned for our everyday need of convenience.
Duncan Maclaren, partner, Maclaren & Partners