In the last decade, there has been significant shift in shoppers’ habits and a boom in the online retail industry. The pandemic did little to change this trend with the forced closure of non-essential retail and many fashion and luxury brands becoming online-only.
But, despite this, is 2024 the year we see a strong return for the high street and a bounce back for bricks and mortar retail?
The government certainly want to improve the high street experience and have a desire to “breathe new life into once bustling town centres and transform them into vibrant places where people once again want to shop, live, work and relax...”
This goal was formalised towards the end of last year with the introduction of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 which gives Local Authorities the discretionary power to designate certain high streets and/or areas which are valuable to the local economy, society or environment.
Once these streets and/or areas are designated, the Local Authority can then serve notice on landlords of any empty premises in these areas where its property has been vacant for at least 366 days in the last two years. At the end of this two-stage notice procedure if the landlord has still not filled their vacant premises, then the Local Authority can arrange a rental auction of the property to let the premises on a lease excluded from the protection of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
In the coming months, we are expecting further detail on this rental auction procedure in secondary legislation and regulations.
It is the government’s hope that this will result in a decrease in the number of vacant properties on our high streets and encourage businesses to invest back into local communities and physical shopping.
This shift back to bricks and mortar retail appears to be supported by shoppers who, in the last year, have been slowly returning to the high street. Many consumers say they prefer to purchase clothing in-store and are invested in the tangible customer experience. It even appears that shoppers are willing to pay more for brands that are sustainable and truly care about the community they serve.
These early indications certainly suggest that the high street is making a come-back in 2024 and we look forward to seeing what this year has in-store for high street premises!