Today’s retailers only need as few as 100 stores to achieve national coverage compared with up to 300 three years ago, meaning a “seismic change” is needed in many high streets and shopping centres, former Selfridges chief Peter Williams told the British Council of Shopping Centres conference in Manchester today.


Williams, a non-executive director of Asos, told the 2,000 delegates at the annual conference that the rise of online meant that retail locations around the country need a fundamental reinvention.

“The vast majority of online sales are not incremental, but are coming from bricks and mortar,” Williams said.

He called for reduced rents, more flexible leases and a reduction in property taxes in order to encourage new retail entrepreneurs appealing to the younger generation of web-savvy shoppers to take the place of national chains whose stores have closed.

“Don’t expect national chains to return to those locations,” Williams said, warning that he expected further reductions in the units required by sectors such as phone shops and banks.

Also speaking at the BCSC Conference, former Tory minister turned journalist Michael Portillo said the next government will face even more serious pressures on the economy than is currently expected.

Portillo said that next year’s post-election budget will need to be even more severe than anticipated, describing VAT as “one of the obvious levers” for a new government looking to raise funds.