Don’t brace for change, embrace it. 

Even before we became all too familiar with pandemics and lockdowns, there was talk about the high street evolving. Consumer habits have been changing and retailers had to evolve to cater to the newest iteration of high street shoppers.

Changes on the high street inevitably require changes to commercial property marketing so we’ve teamed up with the experts in property, Savills, to bring you facts-based advice on the evolution of Central London retail.

Retail as a pastime.

If you can, imagine a time before pandemic was part of your daily vocabulary. Online shopping was already growing fast which challenged the traditional retail offering in the city. As our friend, Versace consultant and digital pioneer Dan Lumb observed: ‘Digital acceleration over the past 6 months has been faster than the past 6 years.’

‘Digital acceleration over the past 6 months has been faster than the past 6 years’ Dan Lumb - We Will be Kings, consultant, Versace.

One key trend was an uptick in experiential shops. From the Oxford Street Nike store (a glorified events venue) to crazy golf or ping pong, as shopping moved more online, visiting the high street became a day out and social occasion rather than a chore. This different appeal was bolstered by London’s tourism and associated footfall around Bond Street, King’s Road and other landmark locations. Of course this change was hampered by lockdown restrictions but Oliver Green, director at Savills, told us he expects this trend to continue post-pandemic. As a landlord (or their agent) it means that often the client is no longer a retailers property team but rather their marketing department making the decisions. This means a different set of priorities and a different narrative to secure deals.

When looking to sell Central London retail spaces with their new purpose in mind, creating marketing collateral which leads with creative ways to use the space before the traditional specifications is a sure-fire way to increase interest. Opening with the potential of the space for marketing and brand-building events will get any CMO’s pulse racing!

For larger spaces, offering virtual tours which include demonstrations of experiential uses will spark their imagination, making for quicker and easier sales

Support small business.

The shift to small business was already happening as the focus on sustainable, ethical business practices goes mainstream: the pandemic pressure on small business has only accelerated it. Consumers are rallying around local businesses and this festive season is gearing up to be a turning point in the big brand vs small business battle.

With landlords accepting that COVID will be a long-term issue, target small businesses by highlighting units with flexible leases on your website. Allowing buyers to filter by or search for lease flexibility will encourage smaller retailers to look at areas they may not have previously considered and give them an opportunity to invest in a better location while minimising their financial risk. Ultimately some of these retailers will be the only people who can make certain locations work for them with a unique draw for the community.

Pre-qualified leads only.

Social distancing and mask wearing are likely to be part of life for some time to come and, even as restrictions ease, worries about the potential risks will make the letting process a challenge. Of course it is important to start with getting the basics right: include information on social distancing capabilities alongside other health and safety options in commercial listings.

But you can do even more, reducing in person viewings by ensuring interested parties really are interested is not only a sensible way to reduce risk during the current pandemic but makes sense generally. Providing virtual viewings and a suite of immersive materials means agents only take hot leads to view units in the flesh, saving your time and the time of potential buyers. Time is money!

Did you know we offer award winning visualisations?

Wait, there’s more!

Rather than overwhelm you with all the incredible information that our property power couple has to offer in one go, Savills will be back next week on Walktrue TV before we wrap up the series on the 12th November with another advice packed article.

In the meantime you can download our report on the evolution of the Central London high street to inform your commercial property marketing and impress your colleagues by popping your email address right here.

Stay safe and keep selling,
Patrick Lambert

Patrick Lambert WalkTrue