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Reinventing the High Street

Fri 6 December 2019

The difficult trading conditions on the high street have been well documented; news of retail giants closing stores and restructuring is impossible to avoid. With tenant demand generally low, solutions for landlords and sellers have had to be creative. Here, Paul Fairlamb, Associate Commercial Surveyor at youngsRPS uses a recent property sale as an example of how the high street must adapt and be open to alternative uses.

“In July this year, it was reported that shop vacancy rates were at their worst since 2015, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey, empty stores stood at 10.3%. Rising business rates and online spending suggests that convenience and experience have become the primary consumer motivators, the high street needs to look at alternative avenues in order to stay lucrative.

Retail parks and sites offering restaurants, cafes, entertainment and leisure are performing well with a 1.2% increase in footfall; why? By enhancing a consumer’s experience. A fantastic example of this is a recent transaction in Whitley Bay.

The two-storey redundant building, originally a supermarket, was acquired by ‘Snap Fitness’ a global leisure firm, benefitting local people in search of better health and fitness. The first floor of the building has been let to ‘JamJar Cinema’, who coincidentally occupy next door and were eager to acquire more space; a sign that experience and leisure is the future of the high street.

The Jam Jar Cinema is the only community cinema in North Tyneside. They rely heavily on volunteers and the good will of local people and companies. North Tyneside Council and Start Up loans gave them the initial funding to start up the business. Starting in 2011, they took over the lease in Park Avenue, Whitley Bay in 2013. In their first year, 9,000 people attended, but when they invested £60,000 in digital projection, they could show the latest films, and now over 25,000 people visit to over 800 screenings a year.

Knowing the needs of the cinema - a social enterprise company building its audience steadily, and Snap Fitness - that needed a single-story location in the centre of Whitley Bay - we were able to bring together all the parties – and negotiate the letting of the first floor and the sale of the whole building to the fitness company.

This successful outcome for all concerned came after an earlier abortive sale to an investor had collapsed because of poor demand for retail space in the town. It is a good illustration of how owners must look at a wide range of options in order to secure the sale or letting of vacant property.”

youngsRPS offers services such as sales and lettings, development, property management and investment, and deal with a wide range of property types including office retail, industrial and leisure as well as advising development projects and investment strategies. For more information, click here.