Time for some hyper-local heroics

Ed Cloke, Office Advisory Surveyor at Lambert Smith Hampton.

Ed Cloke, Office Advisory Surveyor at Lambert Smith Hampton outlines the changing face of retail and what it means to Swansea city centre:

What do barbers, tobacconists and ice-cream parlours have in common? Little at first glance, and perhaps the same can be said for pubs, estate agents and women’s clothing stores.

The answer is that the first group feature as part of the list of high street hopefuls, opening scores of new outlets across the UK, and the latter make up some of the retail stores which are facing rapid decline.

The data comes from, the Local Data Company (LDC), which revealed in November that the UK high street has suffered its ninth negative month in a row for in-store sales. It seems that whenever ‘high street retailers’ are in the news, it is to document decline and closures but the LDC report shows that the picture is more complex, and it hints to how our high streets can regenerate.

Everyone is aware that many familiar, larger retail groups – with multiple outlets – are in retreat. Online shopping has impacted out of town as well as the high street and fresh thinking is needed. Once, secure a major ‘anchor’ client was the golden rule for the retail space. Sign up a big store name and the rest will follow. That time is over.

With 2,692 stores closures in the first six months of 2018, with new stores falling to just 1,569. New openings are not replacing closures fast enough. But independent retailers are bucking the trend.

There are still categories which can’t be shopped online – think haircuts, tea rooms, health clubs, beauty salon treatments – and each makes an appearance in stores which are fast opening and thriving.

Rather than viewing independents as a second-class option, smarter landlords and local authorities are recognising that they are driving new footfall and diversity to our high streets.

Effective regeneration is two-fold, by first getting people to live and work in our town centres, generating footfall, and then by retaining them (and getting them to spend money!) with a high quality and diverse retail and leisure offering.

People are happier to spend more money to support good quality independent retailers and products, whilst experience-driven leisure and retail offerings are key for shopping centre landlords at a national level.

Locally the current redevelopment of The Kingsway in Swansea will offer a more pedestrian-focused thoroughfare through the city. Some high quality central office developments to encourage people into the city centre would make Swansea an attractive option for new occupiers which will in turn drive footfall.

City centre development of any kind with a focus on bringing people into Swansea town centre (either residential, student or office) would be of huge benefit to a currently failing retail market. By having people living and working in the city, you provide retail occupiers with a ready-made catchment of punters looking to spend before work, during the day and after work, kick-starting regeneration and fuelling future growth.