In terms of retail property, 2012 has been a year of extremes.

In terms of retail property, 2012 has been a year of extremes. The first year in a long time with no glitzy shopping centre opening; the year that put the brakes on grocers’ race for space; and the year of rolling headlines of domestic property portfolio consolidation, coupled with ambitious overseas expansion. 

Nonetheless, while mega-mall openings might have been notably absent, developers have not been idle.

Making the most of existing property stock has been the name of the game, and many are revisiting opportunities offered by more small scale developments.

In fact property has moved beyond pure bricks-and-mortar considerations, with landlords and retailers increasingly factoring consumers’ multichannel behaviour into their store portfolio decisions.

As our feature explores, this has brought a two-pronged approach. Shopping destinations are integrating new technology – through free wi-fi or digital marketing stunts, for instance – to draw footfall and boost sales, and retailers are increasingly considering downsized formats in combination with services such as click-and-collect to more successfully meet consumer requirements.

Investment in shopping destinations’ leisure mix is also top of the agenda, with many developers announcing ambitious plans of leisure extensions to existing schemes. But while leisure has been part of shopping centres for some time, the ambition and scale is growing. And as our feature shows, they are being integrated in more thoughtful ways. 

Meanwhile, the UK high street has received many column inches over the past year, as Mary Portas’ review was published and 27 Portas Pilot towns revealed.

But while her recommendations, such as mentoring for independent retailers and creating satellite markets, are welcome, many property experts feel such soft measures are not enough. More fundamental change is needed, with local as well as national government required to act forcefully. As our feature shows, many feel the high street will survive, but in a decidedly different incarnation. And flexibility and collaboration will be vital in determining the right future model.

As the UK high street struggles to reinvent itself, retailers are looking to foreign destinations for growth. Again, this year has brought some big initiatives enabling UK retailers to open stores across the globe. But overseas openings come with unique challenges, dependent on local market peculiarities, and even well-trodden regions throw up new challenges. The Middle East and China have seen an influx of UK retailers for some time, but as our feature explores even here retailers need to adapt store formats to suit changing consumer needs.

Back on British shores during this year of extremes, the Olympics shone a welcome spotlight on the country this summer. While the immediate fillip to footfall and sales is still rather unclear, the Games’ legacy is yet to play out. Its lessons in property development and mixed-use destinations that encourage social get-together will certainly be worth exploring in 2013.

  • Anna Richardson Taylor, Supplement Editor