There are numerous ways to effect a purchase these days, but ultimately, the bricks-and-mortar shop will not disappear.

There are numerous ways to effect a purchase these days, but ultimately, the bricks-and-mortar shop will not disappear.

One of the oddities of last week’s Retail Week Live gathering was just how little coverage the store seemed to attract. M-commerce, e-commerce, multichannel, omnichannel – all got their fair share of the action, but with a few notable exceptions, the store was generally referred to almost in parentheses. There were, of course, plenty of attendees and speakers prepared to talk long about the number of stores that currently constitute the right number for a right-sized national chain. But when it came to what stores actually looked like or how they worked, comment was thin on the ground.

It’s somewhat reassuring therefore to note that the store really isn’t going away. There may be contractions and given the general state of things, it does seem probable that store fascia churn will be one of the hallmarks of high streets and shopping centres across the country, but there will still be shops.

And proof of the fact that the physical store remains on the agenda is provided later this week with the opening of the Trinity Leeds shopping centre. There is an argument that Leeds was already a pretty good shopping destination, but the counterblast to this would be that one of the UK’s principal cities will have, from Thursday, a state-of-the art mall in the middle of things, which in itself is unusual.

More to the point, as in the two Westfield centres in London, there is the sense that retailers will be putting their best feet forward for this one and that there will be a few surprises. This is perhaps the point. The old retail developer’s adage – ‘build it and they will come’ – probably no longer applies, but put a new scheme in the right place (which increasingly seems to mean in-town or city) and the chances are still good that retailers will queue up.

This does mean that destination centres and high streets, think Regent Street, look set to be the new currency going forward. It also means that there will be locations where discount and charity shops will be the only tenants and perhaps we just have to accept that this may be the way of things. Shoppers will still have a choice and at least the much-commented notion of clone Britain may ultimately prove to be a thing of the past as a result of it all.