Research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), as reported by the Yorkshire Insider, happens to feature rows of empty retail units in upper Darley Street in the City of Bradford where Andrew Idle Associates is based.
Although the press picture could have been taken in many different towns and cities and painted a similar picture, in Bradford the Council have launched a plan to relocate its indoor market tenants from the top of the town into the former Marks and Spencer unit within the pedestrianised street shown, and redevelop the top of town for residential. This is a good initiative in that it will, at least, bring back an element of footfall into Darley Street.
There is no doubt that the retail sector has been under a lot of strain due to structural changes in the market, made worse by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the downward pressure on sterling thus increasing import prices. Indeed, this has been cited as a key reason for the downfall of Poundworld, set up by a former market trader in West Yorkshire, with the loss of thousands of jobs as a result.
The current disarray over Brexit and the possibility of a ‘no deal’ now make the situation more challenging than ever. Without wishing to become embroiled in politics, it is to be hoped (however unlikely it seems right now) that some consensus can soon be reached by those in power who represent the electorate.
One of the reasons that retailers often struggle is due to what occupiers perceive as high business rates. Andrew Idle Associates currently have some Challenges lodged with the Valuation Office Agency against these.
Another is the attitude of some Landlords of shopping centres who ramp up rents at the review to figures which are unsustainable for independent tenants (as well as multiples).
If the High Street is to survive and prosper then Landlords must do more to encourage independent retailers, without whom the street scene is much less vibrant.
Another reason for retailers finding it tough is the expansion of internet sales. Amazon in particular have grown hugely over the past few years and they are refining their sales processes and collection arrangements to give a more customer friendly experience.
It is not difficult for buyers to view something at a retail outlet then order it online from a cheaper supplier and this has hastened the demise of some retailers, such as Toys R Us.
Letting retail premises as an Agent is a balancing act. Andrew Idle Associates are active in this sector and do our utmost to look after the Landlord’s best interests, though this can sometimes involve managing their expectations so as to pitch the rental at a level to attract a good level of enquiries and avoid premises lying vacant for many months thus incurring empty rates.