Most years, next week’s opening of Leicester’s Highcross Quarter development would be the biggest shopping centre event of the year.

But, in fact, it kicks off an unprecedented autumn of openings, to be followed by Westfield London, Bristol’s Cabot Circus and the full opening of Grosvenor’s Liverpool One. Between them they are putting more than 5 million sq ft of new space into the market by November.

From a property developer’s point of view, with retailers cutting back on capital expenditure and store openings, there could scarcely be a worse time to be opening big centres. For retailers, too, it creates a dilemma: do you incur the cost of a new store that may cannibalise your other stores, or run the risk of missing out on the buzz from the new centre?

In the event, the market has decided and it looks like all the schemes will open well let. Retailers have concluded that they need to be in these centres, but have made the developers sweat and extracted generous incentives, ranging from fit-out contributions to rent-free periods.

Tensions between retailers and landlords have been high on the agenda this summer, but the reality is that both sides need each other. As well as the impact of home shopping and the internet, retail is attracting a shrinking share of a shrinking pot of disposable income.

Retail is competing with a broader range of leisure activities than ever for share of both time and wallet. The only answer is for developers and retailers to work together to create compelling shopping destinations that can win share of both.

Cool Britannia rules

As a race, we Brits aren’t very good at celebrating our success and what we stand for as a country. Team GB’s success at the Beijing Olympics led to rare displays of national pride, but this was remarkable just because it was so unusual.

Actually, it’s great to be British. Who says? Shoppers around the world. Britain spells cool. But it also spells tradition, quality and craftsmanship.

It’s not going to work for everyone, but as our feature this week shows (page 20), if you’re either a distinctly stylish or a quirky brand, there’s still a huge opportunity to make a virtue of your Britishness overseas. Cool Britannia lives on.

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