There has been a rash of new store openings lately, but is this evidence of a new dawn for retail?

There has been a rash of new store openings lately, but is this evidence of a new dawn for retail?

There have been times over the last year when it’s been quite hard to find a new store of substance to visit and there was always the danger that the sound of a barrel being scraped might be audible. Yet lately it’s been an embarrassment of riches that culminated last week in the opening of a new Anthropologie store in Guildford, a massive joint Tesco and Dobbies store in King’s Lynn and an outlet centre next door to Wembley Stadium, among others.

All this and we are on the cusp of that moment when new store openings tend to take a back seat to the business of selling merchandise for Christmas. Yet this year, there is still a major flagship to open on Regent Street, from J Crew, and there will doubtless be numerous pop-ups as we head into the season of goodwill.  

Is this therefore a new dawn for retailers operating in the real world? Has the online and m-commerce threat been dispelled as it becomes part of the more general retail matrix and has all of the dead retail wood been excised? There are, of course, no answers to any of these questions and everything remains largely a matter of conjecture, but things do appear to be shifting.

Broadly, the situation seems to be that the competition for appropriate sites is hotter than ever, even in the face of rising rents and rates. This perhaps points towards a future where a number of destinations are swamped by demand and it is significant that most of the recent store openings have been in these high-profile locations. Shoppers will continue to frequent these malls and high streets and the longer this situation pertains, the more exaggerated the difference between the haves and the have-nots, in terms of tenant mix, is likely to be.

The truth seems to be that with the exception of the biggest grocery outlets, which are destinations in their own right, we seem set to go to fewer places to shop and for retailers the clamour to be part of the big mall or high street action can only become louder. This is less a north-south divide and rather more to do with big destinations besting other places that are consigned to the bin. Shame, but there it is. Now, therefore, is a great time to open a shop, as long as it’s in the right place. Turnover is rarely equally distributed.