Gymshark’s upcoming opening of its first IRL (or ‘in real life’) store on Regent Street is another reminder of the enduring popularity of in-person retail.

Joanna Lea

Joanna Lea

In our Belgravia portfolio, we also recently saw another first – welcoming womenswear brand With Nothing Underneath, which decided to make its foray into bricks and mortar, with founder Pip Durell commenting “our sustained growth since opening, and our loyal customer base, has meant that we felt confident in taking the leap to invest in our first bricks-and-mortar store”. She added: “We are excited to offer consumers the space in which to shop and discover our brand in a quintessentially British neighbourhood.”

These are all positive signs that the scars of Covid are starting to fade and that well-designed, curated and supported retail destinations are highly relevant in the modern landscape. The pandemic reiterated that above all we are human. We need contact and interaction with others. We want to congregate and shared experiences energise us. It’s the only thing online retail can’t provide.

Bricks and mortar is increasingly a signal of a brand’s maturity – an evolution of their offer rather than the starting point. Not only is there a return to the physical store as it was before, but brands want to deliver a fuller, more immersive experience encompassing food and drink, the goods themselves and one-off tailored events that provide added value for consumers.

Well-designed retail destinations are highly relevant in the modern landscape

GymShark’s promise of ‘regular events and community meet-ups’ is testament to this, while across our neighbourhoods we are partnering with occupiers for ‘hangout’-style events that attract footfall and create a buzz. It’s a win-win; research has shown that positive in-person experiences often translate into more online spend.

And this is something our Mayfair and Belgravia portfolio is well placed to support – more than two thirds of our retailers are independents. Many take their first physical store with us and we have created services and supportive networks to make the transition to physical stores as easy as possible.

Despite economic signals weakening, we are seeing high demand for our spaces – brands are actively competing for space again. And it’s not just the independents – larger global brands are expanding into destinations like Mayfair, which is well managed and meeting the demand for experiential retail.

This success doesn’t happen by accident. We’ve worked hard to redefine the traditional owner-occupier roles and services that differentiate our properties and places. Through collaborative destination marketing, new initiatives and listening to what occupiers want, we are redefining what it means to be a property owner. From our North Audley Jubilee Street Party to our ‘Conversation’ series that provides occupiers with actionable insights, or our Simplified Lease, we are focused on partnerships over transactions.

With this in mind, let’s look forward to the rise and rise of bricks and mortar.

Joanna Lea is director of retail at Grosvenor Property UK