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Retailtainment opportunities as UK shopping malls are forced to redevelop

Up to 70 of Britain’s 700 shopping centres are facing redevelopment or closure, opening up retailtainment opportunities for investors.

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In the aftermath of COVID-19, up to 70 of Britain’s 700 shopping centres, built in the 1970s and 1980s, will be demolished or at least partly redeveloped into homes, offices or other spaces (via The Guardian).

According to Local Data Company (LDC) analysis of shopping centres in England, Scotland and Wales, at least 30 shopping centres in the UK are now at least half empty, including five that are more than 80 percent vacant.

The analysis from LDC, which does not include outdoor retail parks, also suggests that a further 34 shopping centres have between 40 percent and 50 percent of their shops vacant.

“There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the challenges we were seeing across the physical retail environment, with shopping centres having been particularly exposed to categories in decline, such as fashion and casual dining,” said LDC commercial director Lucy Stainton.

70 of 700 malls to be redeveloped in UK

“Many shopping centres have been left too long and need a radical rethink,” added Stephen Springham, head of retail research at property advisory firm Knight Frank.

Springham estimates that about 10 percent of shopping centres are no longer viable, and believes a further 20 percent to 30 percent will need to a huge overhaul to offer more than retail.

The brick-and-mortar retail industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, with lockdowns forcing malls to close and driving consumers to online shopping. However, indoor theme parks and innovative experiences could revitalise retail spaces.

“There are fresh opportunities for how this space could be used such as flexible offices or community spaces,” Stainton added.

Revitalising retail after the pandemic

“Likewise, the independents sector has remained comparatively resilient and where shopping centre space has typically been dominated by chains, landlords might look to engage newer brands creating more diverse schemes by return.”

UK shopping centres that are already set for development include Nottingham’s Broadmarsh, Stockton’s Castlegate and the Chilterns Centre in High Wycombe. London’s Oxford Street is also becoming a greener space with visitor attractions.

Elsewhere, Gravity Active Entertainment is transforming a former Debenhams store at Southside Shopping Centre in Wandsworth into a £4 million retailtainment hub.

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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