Retail parks have seen a significant increase in popularity in recent years. Figures from the BRC and Springboard for January 2016 showed that retail parks saw a year-on-year increase in footfall of 5.2%. This is in stark contrast to high streets and shopping centres, which saw footfall decline during 2015. So why is this?

Convenience plays a big part: the rising popularity of Click & Collect coupled with the free parking at retail parks makes them an attractive location for consumers. However, we believe the biggest driver of footfall in retail parks moving forward is the new class of retail park that is emerging, where shopping, socialising and dining is possible.

Retailers such as Next, Debenhams and H&M are increasingly looking to take up space in retail parks as they seek to adopt an in-fill strategy and achieve a portfolio of fewer, larger, and better ranged stores.  With lower rents on offer and higher footfall, plus an increasing leisure and F&B offering, retail parks are creating a compelling argument for retailers to take space.

An example of this new class of retail park is Elliott’s Field Shopping Park in Rugby. Anchored by Debenhams, the park offers a strong tenant line up which includes River Island, Fat Face (their first retail park store in England) as well as a leisure and F&B offer which includes Ed’s Easy Diner and a children’s play area. Another is The Bishop Centre, located between Slough and Maidenhead, which has just been transformed into a modern and attractive retail park anchored by a 55,000 sq ft Tesco, supported by TK Maxx, Nike, Mountain Warehouse, Frankie & Benny’s, Majestic Wine, Evans Cycles and Costa Coffee.

Asset Managers are becoming more sophisticated and are actively broadening the offer of retail parks, providing stronger competition to shopping centres and high streets. However, not all retail parks are succeeding. There are still many that have not adapted to today’s more demanding consumer and are suffering as a result. Where the planning system allows, the creation of an attractive proposition is key, balancing the needs of different customer segments and offering the right balance of convenience, value, experience and of course, brands.

Naveed Javaid