TLT: Retail landscape remains confused

Research by Spinningfields-based law firm TLT found the North West is among the more saturated retail markets in the country but still presents opportunities for growth.

High streets in big urban areas and market towns are seen as having the best growth prospects across the country. Out-of-town retail parks and high streets in small towns are less favourable.

Of the 100 top UK retailers who were questioned for the TLT Retail Growth Strategies Report 2015, the region that was the least saturated region and had the most potential for new shops was the South West, followed by Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The region seen as being most saturated is the North East, followed by the South East and East Anglia. The North West was also among those labelled saturated as opposed to unsaturated.

The majority (67%) of retailers who responded to the survey regarded physical stores as "vital" to their future; 73% expected to have the same number or more stores by the end of 2015. The vast majority, 83%, will have a click-and-collect offer in their stores this year.

More than one in five plan to share space with third parties to gain a better return on their investment in physical stores. Less than a third (31%) plan store refurbishment.

Perran Jervis, partner and head of retail and consumers goods at TLT, said: "Despite a belief in stores, most retailers are finding it harder to assess their success and profitability, indicating just how confused the picture has become for the sector as it grapples with online trading.

"Stores are no longer just places to browse and buy, but an increasingly critical link in the retail chain. Stores are helping build brands that drive online growth and vice versa."

The 36-page report includes commentaries from WHSmith, Barclays and Liverpool-based retail surveyor Mason Partners. Andrew Mason, director Mason Partners, said that at "weaker sites, where rents fell by up to 40% from the 2007/8 highs, the challenge remains to find replacements for businesses that no longer need a presence on every high street, notably fashion stores, travel agencies and furniture outlets."

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