The names of the retailers taking stands at this year’s British Council of Shopping Centres said everything about today’s retail property market. Five of the top six supermarkets were there competing for sites, as were value retailers Wilkinson, Poundland and Store Twenty One, vying for space in an increasingly crowded market.

The names of the retailers taking stands at this year’s British Council of Shopping Centres said everything about today’s retail property market. Five of the top six supermarkets were there competing for sites, as were value retailers Wilkinson, Poundland and Store Twenty One, vying for space in an increasingly crowded market.

The mood in Manchester was much improved on last year’s wrist-slashingly gloomy vibe. New and growing retail concepts like SuperGroup, Theo Paphitis’ DNA lingerie brand and Clas Ohlson were there explaining their ideas to receptive developers.

New chains are good news for the high street generally. While they introduce extra competition, they inject the freshness and vitality that shopping destinations need if they’re to retain their attractiveness to shoppers.

But a question being asked at BCSC was what constitutes a national chain in the multichannel age? One retailer planning ‘national’ coverage is understood to be defining that as 30 stores plus a comprehensive web strategy.

And that’s the big change coming in the retail property world. The top malls and city centres are set to consolidate their dominant position, with the caveat that, at least in the short-term, trading performance is set to be much better the closer to London you are.

Tomorrow’s specialist multiple retailers won’t need to be in the second-tier towns. Far better to do multichannel well and have a small number of stores that offer a distinctive retail experience. This will redefine what a secondary location is and sizeable towns and cities will fall into the bracket. Supermarkets and value chains will lead retailing in them and Primark will be the anchor of choice. Some shops may never see retail use again, while cut-price independents will play a bigger role.

It’s not a pretty outlook, but it’s inevitable. As in all areas of retail, in property the march of multichannel is going to reinforce the divide between winners and losers.

Cold snap for fashion

The mild weather this week won’t have done fashion retailers any favours, but Next’s slightly disappointing trading update on Wednesday doesn’t just reflect this.

There remains a lot of nervousness about spending on the part of the mid-market shopper. And while there’s no reason the market is going to fall off a cliff, and Christmas should be fine, the first few months of next year are going to be a time when retailers need to be on top of their game.

tim.danaher@retail-week.com