After two years of Covid-induced lockdowns, it is evident that we are all yearning to get out and about.

Katherine Croom - Sorbon Estates

Katherine Croom

People are craving the social contact that they could not get during lockdown – meals out with friends, a catch-up over a coffee, memorable experiences with our nearest and dearest – but they do not want to travel too far to get them. Tapping into this desire to experience real life again, rather than second-hand through a screen, opens unique opportunities for retailers.

The Pret Index shows that few people are travelling into large cities and, with hybrid working set to stay, market towns are rising in popularity as people chase real life and physical experiences closer to home. Market towns offer diversity akin to cities on a more manageable scale that allows consumers to combine shopping and leisure experiences with gastropubs and quality dining – a bit of everything in a single, characterful destination unlike any other.

This is evident in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, where stunning eateries combine with independent retailers, a sprinkle of popular, premium brands, and attractive leisure options like river walks and brewery tours. The combination of quality retailers with high-end Michelin star restaurants, sumptuous cafés, wine bars and great pubs, allows visitors to make the most of their visit.

Natural features, such as rivers and parks, help to transform these towns into destinations for people to visit as a wider day out. In the post-lockdown era, it is about creating opportunities for people to get out, try something new, explore and ultimately gain an experience they cannot get online.

Moving to quirky, unique and beautiful market towns offers retailers an alternative to ‘same-old’ bland shopping centres and gives visitors a unique offering they cannot get elsewhere. Retailers need to tap into this demand for an all-round experience, as opposed to a simple shopping trip, to attract customers with a broad and exciting offering that will inspire them to try something new.

Katherine Croom is managing director of Sorbon Estates