Consumers need to accept that retail will disappear from some town centres completely, a conference into the future of Scotland’s shops has been told.
Stuart Moncur, head of national retail at Savills and a member of the Revo committee – previously the British Council of Shopping Centres – warned that some town centres will lose shops entirely as the impact of online shopping and out-of-town retail parks continues to take effect.
This comes as analytics firm GlobalData warned that spend on clothing and footwear on the high street will decline by 13.8 per cent – £2.4 billion – in the next five years. A report by the firm found the proportion of fashion sales made online is set to reach 34.5 per cent by 2023 – more than doubling since 2013 when 15.2 per cent of clothing and footwear sales were online.
The survey of 10,000 people found that 80 per cent of consumers visited the high street in the past 12 months, with food and health and beauty products most likely to spark an in-person visit.
Mr Moncur said: “We have got to accept that there are locations which will not be a retail hub moving forward. We have got to accept that we have far too much retail [space].”
He added: “Town centres are about convenience. Beyond that, there will be no need for retail.”
The comments were made at a round table summit of around 30 of Scotland’s leading retail experts in Edinburgh. The event, ‘The Future of Shopping Centres in Scotland’s Towns’, was held by Revo and Scotland’s Towns Partnership at the office of law firm DWF in a bid to take steps towards tackling Scotland’s “distressed” town centres.
Katherine Mackintosh, managing director of Robertson Regeneration and Property, who also attended the event, agreed with Mr Moncur. She said: “We have to learn that there is a hierarchy and there are places that aren’t going to be the same in the future. We need to understand better what function each place has, rather than everybody thinking they have to have the same shops and deliver the same thing. It is difficult for councils and local people to accept that this change has come.”
Scotland’s Town Centres Partnership is to submit a report to the Scottish Government to present the issues and barriers blocking attempt to reform Scotland’s town centres.