Christmas was a mixed bag for retailers. There is a distinct nervousness within the market at the moment. 

Coal Drops Yard

Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross is home to many independent retailers

Source: Coal Drops Yard

Yet with uncertainty comes opportunity and, if 2018 was the year of the CVA, 2019 is set to be the year for evolving space to be more meaningful and engaging. 

Big brands have long been the stalwarts of the high street. Yet increasingly, landlords and developers are adapting their business models to favour the unique and personal, often over the established.

There is strong evidence to suggest that quality independents can invigorate a crowded market. Take coffee. While this has largely been the domain of big chains, artisan coffee shops are making an impact. Young entrepreneurs have capitalised on the fact that while global brands dominate, for many consumers the overall experience has become bland.

It is a similar story in the casual dining sector. While there has been a rapid decline in growth in casual dining, there has also been a flow of enthusiastic and creative millennials arriving on the scene bringing new experiences.

The same principles exist in leisure, a sector in which Savills has identified 156 new brands in the UK in the last five years.

Landlords are recognising that independents have a greater role to play in creating a unique environment. Asset management has become ‘space curation’ – a mark of a more nurtured and personalised consumer space.

One look at the new tenants of Battersea Power Station shows this put into practice with a distinct lack of brands. Instead, the offer is an upmarket and varied mix of independent boutiques, leisure and food and beverage outlets, which creates a strong identity in an otherwise congested market.

Battersea power station retail2

Battersea Power Station will have a strong retail element

The impact of ecommerce on retail spaces is well documented and commented on, but it is no coincidence that bricks and mortar operators that showcase the best convenience, service and experience have the best chance of survival and those locations that retain a point of difference and provide a bespoke or personalised experience have the best chance of success.

Tom Whittington, director, retail and leisure research team, Savills