The UK’s high streets have lost 17,500 chain stores and counting. The pandemic has fast tracked the online revolution many a property predictor had called, and there is no marketing magic wand to turn the tide to fill those voids.
However, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, property will always find its resurgence. I watched the march of the malls in 2008 when I moved to London to enjoy the property boom – enjoying and drafting commentary of the 11 shiny new centres to open their doors across the UK – and then, well, you know what happened.
In the following recovery period, some of us property comms folk felt like stuck records, bleating messaging about resetting the agenda through ‘truly mixed-use development’. But we find ourselves there again, and this time, we believe our own PR. Why? This time the industry cannot rest on its laurels and expect shoppers to head to the opening of a paper bag anymore. And I am relieved to say the evidence so far shows, that it is not.
In order to reset and recover from the worst decline on record, development plans can be nothing if not dynamic, future-thinking, and ‘truly mixed-use’. People are keen to be set free and explore our towns and cities again, but before they pound the pavements once more, they need to know they are heading somewhere safe – and most important of all – that it is worth the journey.
At Redwood, we have the honour of working with some of the most creative minds in the industry (clients and colleagues included, of course) and the commitment exemplified through the likes of Newcastle’s City Centre Transformation, and the largest city-centre destination underway in the UK, St James Quarter – it is evident that those that saw past the originally set 2020 Vision, will not only survive this, but thrive.
From in town to out of town, in the year to come, we predict a number of key trends in tackling post pandemic placemaking – a built environment revolution, if you will. And as you’ll see, simplicity sometimes offers the innovation needed to bring back the magic to our places.
- Love local – the mantra is alive, kicking, and already demonstrating success. Yes, we will all be ready for a trip past the end of the road, but there will remain no safer way to shop and get our essentials for some time to come.
- Conscious consumerism – sustainability has been a buzzword in the property industry for so long that the true meaning lost its way for a while. But the consumer has never forgotten, and the industry is catching back up. Consumers are increasingly driven by a commitment to making purchasing decisions, and ultimately brand buy-in, for products and services that have positive social, economic, and environmental impact. The circular economy must be embraced.
- Click to brick – talk about blast from the past, but without real integration of all operating assets, there are hundreds of independent retailers that wouldn’t have made it through the last year
- Green space – and simply put, just more space. Take a walk down the street to see if you are either avoided, or passively aggressively tutted at for not moving. The wellbeing agenda is well and truly embedded in our narrative by now, but without the true embrace of safe, healthy, spaces in our destinations, you may trip up from the outset.
I look forward to reading this in ten years’ time to see if my 2030 Vision was any better than 2020. See you there…