The excellent slides for this event may be viewed via this link
About 60 people attended this slick event hosted by CBRE at their West End offices. The evening explored the growth of online retailing which is redefining the sector and impacting on high streets across the country. Ian Anderson, Senior Director, outlined the event and Richard Lemon acted as master of ceremonies.
Neil Saunders, MD Columino, graphically identified the changing pattern of retail activity. Between 2008-18 online retail sales will rise from 6.4 to 16% of total. Online sales volumes will rise by 54% between 2013-18. By contrast, a mere 8.6% growth in traditional or ‘physical’ sale is expected. Across the sector growth is mixed; for example, in music retailing online is increasingly popular because it is more convenient to either download or stream than physically shop. Whilst on line sales can replace physical sales it can also complement them with the growth of ‘click and collect’. Despite these changes Neil identified that shopping remains a profoundly social and physical experience and people love to browse, touch and feel products and socialise.
Stephen Wright, Head of Planning at the John Lewis Partnership identified that online retail sales at John Lewis have risen from 2003 to 2014 from 3% to 30% and are set to rise to 40% by 2020. Stephen identified that there are significant entry barriers for companies which include new investment in infrastructure such as IT and distribution. Again Stephen identified that online retailing can still complement physical retailing. By way of example, the JLP continue to invest in town centres although their new generation of stores are smaller because they hold less stock.
Stuart Anderson of TfL identified that the growth in online sales was opening up new opportunities for their retail offer. TfL owns 1,000 shops, most of which are kiosks in Underground stations. There are over 3,500,000 daily trips on London Underground and this leads to considerable opportunities for retailers to ‘showcase’ their products in Tube stations.
It was left to Darren Richards of the GLA to identify an appropriate policy response to this new dynamic. GLA research has identified that major centres are set to grow with White City and Westfield emerging as ‘international’ centres. Comparison shopping will plateau but convenience will continue to grow as a proportion of overall retail spend. Set against this context the draft Further Alterations to the London Plan recognise that multichannel retailing could have a positive effect on mainly larger centres where growth in comparison goods is likely to be concentrated. However some major and medium centres are likely to face the greatest challenges from changing consumer behaviour and boroughs are advised to plan accordingly. Neighbourhood centres will still have a traditional role to provide access to local goods and services.
So to conclude there is a continuing role for High Street shopping as long as it can complement these new trends. A bit like Mark Twain rumours of the death of the High Street may be greatly exaggerated….. well in the short term!