INTERNET shopping is expected to plateau over the next few years, giving a much-needed reprieve for high streets, a new report has claimed.
Colliers International’s 17th mid-summer retail report predicts that the number of empty shops will fall from 12 per cent of total floor space at present to 7 per cent by 2020.
The property consultancy expects to see a “new wave” of retail development starting in 2014, but this will mainly be in large shopping centres and will not gain significant momentum until around 2018.
Growth areas include “casual dining” outlets from the likes of Nandos and the Tesco-owned Giraffe chain of restaurants, while discount retailers such as the 99p Store are also entering the Scottish market.
The firm added that oil-rich Aberdeen continues to “buck the trend” for slowing high streets, with a low vacancy rate and “keen interest for well-proportioned, prime units”.
Dundee is also expected to receive a boost on the back of its major waterfront regeneration programme.
John Duffy, head of in-town retail for Colliers in Scotland, said: “We’re likely to see a new wave of retail development, which will start in four to five years’ time. The focus of such investment will be in the major regional centres such as Braehead.
“High street vacancy rates are beginning to plateau and, coupled with a slow-down in corporate failures, we expect a less negative impact on the high street than in recent years.
“Our research also suggests internet retailing will be flatlining at 20 per cent of all non-food sales by 2020.
“As a result, online sales will no longer be as much of a threat to high street, as successful retailers will by then have aligned their internet and property strategies.”
But the firm warned high streets remain at a “critical” stage and called for a range of policy changes, including greater flexibility in the planning system and more free parking.
Colliers also called for the Scottish Government to bring forward its review business rates. A two-year delay to the review has left retailers paying higher rates based on 2008 property values.
Peter Muir, ratings director at Colliers, said: “A move to encourage people back into town centres will fail unless the Scottish Government addresses the growing discrepancy between non-domestic rates and the harsh realities of the property market. The move to postpone the 2015 revaluation by two years means rateable values will remain on pre-recessionary April 2008 rental levels. This decision must be reversed.
“Without realistic rateable values, any initiative to bring life back into Scotland’s high streets will turn out to be expensive window dressing.”