A selection of facts and expert opinions showing why schemes such as this are doomed to fail.


Shop closures

The number of town centre stores fell by almost 15,000 between 2000 and 2009 with an estimated further 10,000 losses over the past couple of years.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills/Genecon and Partners (2011): Understanding High Street Performance


953 shops belonging to big retailers closed in the first half of 2012.

More than 30 chain stores closed every day in July and August 2012.

Local Data Company for PricewaterhouseCoopers. October 2012


“Estimated one fifth of shopping centres in financial difficulties

Companies with combined assets of £10 bn are in breach of their covenants and may default. Around 20 secondary shopping centres are already on the market.

Many assets were purchased at the top of the market. Selling them now will further depress prices. But banks like Lloyds are keen to get the no-hopers off their balance sheets.”

British Council of Shopping Centres, 2012


Stores that have gone into administration since 2008


Growth in online spending

Annual online spending on clothing increased from £1 billion in 2001 to £12 billion in 2011.

Experian. ‘Changing Face of Retail’.
• The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in December 2012 was estimated at £830.3 million, an increase of 15.5% compared with December 2011.
• The amount spent online accounted for 10.6% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel. •

Office of National Statistics



Capital Shopping Centres, owner of Lakeside and the Trafford Centre, is creating a national brand for its centres and launching a retail website allowing customers to buy from a variety of retailers in one transaction.



“Within small shopping centres (sized between 5,000 sq m and 20,000 sq m) it is likely that the growth of online shopping could reduce turnover notwithstanding any growth in disposable income”

Cheshire retail study update by WYG for Cheshire East and West 2011

 People aren’t buying more

“The market isn’t growing, it’s about stealing market share if we’re going to grow. I’m optimistic.”

Debenhams boss Michael Sharp (The Guardian, Tuesday 8 January 2013)



It’s not just about today’s economic climate

“Our towns face complex structural problems …..we need to have a complete re-think about how vacant property could be redeveloped into new uses. …The alternative is a period of steady, inexorable and irreversible decline with unacceptable social consequences.”

Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation


“The Taskforce recognises that our High Streets are going through a structural recalibration, rather than an economic cycle from which we will emerge over time. The wider economic, consumer and retail markets have moved at a pace that our High Streets and property in general, have not been fast enough to adapt. The reasons for this need careful examination as a way of understanding what the current property-related barriers to rejuvenation are, and what the range of options or solutions could be. ”

Mark Williams, Chair of Distressed Town Centre Taskforce and partner at asset managers, Hark Group


Chain stores don’t boost the local economy

“90% of spending from supermarkets and chain stores leaks out of the local economy almost immediately.”

Sacks, J (2002) The Money Trail


“The problem is not necessarily that too little money flows into a neighbourhood. Rather it is what consumers, public services and businesses do with that money. Too often it is spent on services with no local presence, and so immediately leaves the area.”

 Government National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal 2000


Debenhams job ad info showing low levels of salary offered – not the type of jobs that will boost the local economy


“If every tourist, resident, or business in Cornwall switched just 1% of their spending to local items or services, that would put £52 million of additional direct spending into the local economy every year.

That is £4 million per year more than the money Cornwall gets from the European Union grant called ‘Objective 1’.”

 New Economics Foundation, Plugging the Leaks

“Small businesses are the bedrock of the local economy and the engine of job creation in Manchester and the north west.”

Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive Manchester City Council


Lack of viability

Only a quarter of local authority development schemes are progressing as originally planned. The rest have been delayed (c. 30%), temporarily halted (c.20%), permanently stalled (8%) or are still at the concept/master planning stage (c.13%).  Of the schemes which are progressing – either with an original or delayed start date – almost 75% are anchored by a food store.

The key problems stated by local authorities were development viability (45%), site assembly (28%), development financing and/or long term funding (27%) and weak occupier demand (23%).

From GVA: Unlocking Town Centre Retail Developments, 2012

Read the report here .

In Macclesfield, the proposed anchor is not a food store, but a Debenhams department store. The developers Wilson Bowden were quoted in the Manchester Evening News in June 2012 as saying they did not know when they would secure finance for the scheme, with WB retail director Will Robinson, stating: “Eventually we will go to the financial markets to fund the development, but I do not know when. Once we have planning permission, we’ll assess what is the right time.”

A Survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors(RICS) revealed a 13% fall in the net balance of businesses looking at retail premises to rent in the final 3 months of 2012.  RICS Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn said “yet another incredibly tough period for the high Street. This downbeat picture doesnt look like changing any time soon, with demand for retail space continuing to drop and more and more empty premises set to blight the country’s Town Centres”  The survey also found that a balance of 22% more Surveyors expected rents to continue to fall over the coming months.

As the demand for retail premises falls Landlords are urged to reduce rents to help retailers keep stores as customers flock to on-line sales. –

December 2012 – Survey by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).


Wake up Macc note: If rents continue to fall the proposed development is likely to be unviable/unfundable  making it too costly to build against likely return on  investment.  The expected portion of  rent return to the Council will also be much reduced. 


Independent stores a better bet than national chains?


“Despite the dip in consumer spending, over 2,500 more independent shops were opened in 2011 than were closed down, according to research by the Local Data Company (LDC).

The LDC  data shows that although 12,669 independent shops closed last year (2011), 15,233 shops opened. This means that the total number of stores grew by 2,564.

Meanwhile, multiple chains opened 5,094 shops but shut 5,268, leading to a decline of 174 stores.”



Too many shops


Space contracts from oversupply

  • Since the recession hit there has been a decline in space growth as secondary and tertiary locations have lost out to larger and new shopping locations. Casualties have released space too. The stores in good locations and with large enough space have been taken by competitors,but stores in irrelevant or poor performing locations have closed or moved out of retail entirely.This has hit the smaller store formats and independents particularly.
  • Planned shopping centre projects have been put on hold but more will come through over the next five years, however new centres tend to pull from older surrounding ones so displacing demand rather than creating new demand.
  •  Meanwhile retailers are closing non-profitable stores, shifting to larger stores in better, more relevant locations which is increasing the average store size but reducing the number of stores.
  • The main losers are small independents who cannot generate the footfall to cover their increasing costs, and secondary and tertiary centres.
  • In addition the internet reduces the need for more stores and a new location model is emerging.

Verdict/SAS: UK retail 2012 and beyond



Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We probably have 20,000 too many shops.



Retailers run too many outlets amid rise of online shopping, survey found

Deloitte estimates that online sales account for the equivalent of more than 60m square feet of retail space. This is set to increase further and could render large amounts of shop space obsolete. The firm predicted in March that up to four out of 10 shops would have to shut in the next five years. The ones that remain will have to adapt to suit customers’ changing habits. Retail experts believe the high street will change beyond recognition, and be lined with coffee shops and internet kiosks.

Hugo Clark, director in Deloitte’s real estate team and author of the report, says: “The death of the high street is far from being a reality, yet stores are now just one part of a larger, more connected customer experience. Shops now represent a potentially clumsy, fixed point in an increasingly mobile world. In many cases, they are slow and costly to adapt, expensive to operate and difficult to relinquish once surplus to requirements.”



LDC Report Warns: Too Many Shops

The LDC’s report, entitled, “Too Many Shops,” collected data from 145,000 shops in 506 town centres. The conclusion reached after the results were analysed was that falling consumer spending and the global financial crisis are key factors in the current retail slump.

Consumers are cautious about their spending and are looking for the best prices when they shop, which means their habits have changed over time. More buyers are turning to the Web when making purchases, which means brick and mortar stores have even more competition than the shop down the street or across town. According to the Centre for Retail Research, online retail sales in the UK are expected to reach £57.39 billion in 2012, representing an increase of 14 per cent over 2011 figures. With this shift in buying habits, the face of retail shopping may be changed forever.



Successful town centres of the future

“A town or city centre that offers its own diverse and distinctive environment, with a strong sense of place, is a magnet that attracts people to work, visit and live. But it has to meet several key challenges in order to survive and succeed.

It must have its own unique identity, using architecture, events, marketing and all forms of media to reinforce vital points of difference.

We believe a successful town centre generates an abundance of opportunities for growth, local employment, wealth and social interactions that are invaluable to the nation. Town centres are a focal point for a huge range of activity; the ‘service centre’ for each local community. This goes way beyond just retailing and includes public services, arts, culture and commercial and office-based businesses as well as educational institutions, tourism, hospitality and leisure (including the night time economy) and much more.”

Association of Town Centre Management: A Manifesto for Town Centres and High Streets



“Build on existing strengths. A local historic specialisation, a natural amenity or community feature may set a destination apart. New developments should make the most of these assets to create a unique sense of place.

There is no escaping the fact that Britain’s high streets will continue to be impacted by the growth of multi-channel, out of town and regional centres over the long term, and in the medium term by reduced consumer expenditure in uncertain economic times.

In many locations retail is only part of the answer for high street viability and needs to be complemented by a range of leisure and cultural activities. The way in which high street policy is viewed has been altered by the economic downturn but structural changes to the retail sector, and the high street in particular, have been apparent for many years. Government figures show that the number of town centre stores fell by almost 15,000 between 2000 and 2009, with estimates of a further 10,000 losses over the past couple of years.

The challenges high streets face are structural not cyclical and policy makers must not assume a return to previous economic models. Even if the economy recovers quickly, this does not mean our high streets will automatically prosper.”

British Retail Consortium: 21st Century High Streets: What Next For Britain’s Town Centres?



The Portas Review 2012: Independent review into the future of the High Street

“High streets are about so much more than shopping. This review isn’t just about retail or what’s in the interests of the local shopkeeper. High streets should be seen as a civic not a private space. A shared resource in which people come together to create value and share experiences.

My vision for the future of high streets is of multifunctional and social places which offer a clear and compelling purpose and experience that’s not available elsewhere, and which meets the interests and needs of the local people. We need to start a conversation about what we need and what we want our high streets to be. To put the heart back into our high streets, inspire that connection between local people and their home town, and instill pride in belonging to a unique place.

This may sound hopelessly idealistic. But those who see high streets purely as a commercial retail mix need to think again.

Let me spell out my vision of the future.

I don’t want to live in a Britain that doesn’t care about community.

And I believe that our high streets are a really important part of building communities and pulling people together in a way that a supermarket or shopping mall, however convenient, however entertaining and however slick, just never can.

I want to put the heart back into the centre of our high streets, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning. Places that will develop and sustain new and existing markets and businesses. The new high streets won’t just be about selling goods. The mix will include shops but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places. They should become places where we go to engage with other people in our communities, where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities.

This will be the new value.

High streets must be ready to experiment, try new things, take risks and become destinations again. They need to be spaces and places that people want to be in. High streets of the future must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect.”

 Mary Portas



Government response to the Portas review

Rt. Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister:

“Mary’s review made the challenge crystal clear. Internet shopping and out-of-town shopping centres are not going to go away – they offer the convenience and choice that customers welcome. So for our high streets to thrive they must offer something new and different.

But for this to happen it is local people who must take control, developing the vision for the future of their high streets and putting their energy and enthusiasm into making it a reality.”

Rt. Hon Grant Shapps MP, Minister for Housing and Local Government:

“Over the past few decades, the way we shop has changed dramatically. Far from the high street being our first choice, we now have the option to visit out-of-town centres offering free parking and a range of outlets under one roof, and to buy our goods and services online from the comfort of our sofas.

These two key challenges have left our high streets in a fragile state, and all too often the closure of one key store can trigger the downfall of a whole town centre. So our high streets cannot simply rely on retail – they have to offer something new and different that neither shopping centres nor the internet can match. Supporting local co-operatives and social enterprises, for example, should be part of an approach to ensure diverse and competitive high streets.”



Twenty-First Century Town Centres

“High streets and town centres that are fit for the 21st century need to be multifunctional social centres, not simply competitors for stretched consumers. They must offer irresistible opportunities and experiences that do not exist elsewhere, are rooted in the interests and needs of local people, and will meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.”

Action for Market Towns (2011)


“Wanting to go into town is different from wanting or needing to shop. It is about an experience. It is about sociability and relaxation, creativity and being part of something you cannot get at home or work.”

Jan Gehl (2010): Cities for People


Don’t abandon retail. People will always want the High Street

“No one is under any illusion that the high street model of today is sustainable. There are 46,000 empty shops and that’s way too many. Yes, the model of yesterday has gone and town centres will never be the same in an era of omni-channel retailing. But that’s still no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater and give up on retail.

With reduced consumer spending, too many failed local authority regeneration efforts and counterproductive car parking rises, increased overheads in the form of unrealistic business rates has made retail simply no longer viable in many places.

If we want to see diverse high streets with great shops once again at the heart of our communities then Government seriously needs to take a radical approach to business rates, which are proving to be a hindrance to entrepreneurial drive. We’re becoming a nation that takes a lot in taxes but gives nothing back.”

Paul Turner-Mitchell: The Northerner Blog (The Guardian) 21 September 2012







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