Jun 7, 2021
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Up to 70 UK malls at risk of closure says LDC

Jun 7, 2021

A gruelling year for physical retail comes into stark focus with news up to 70 of the UK 700 shopping centres could be set for demolition. Even more ageing centres are in line for partial redevelopment into homes, offices or for other uses, according to a report by the Local Data Company.

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The grim forecast shows just how much the pandemic dealt a blow to those malls already suffering from the rise of online shopping and over-expansion of retail space.

The report shows at least 30 shopping centres in the UK are now at least half empty, including five with more than 80% of their stores vacant after the pandemic hit non-essential retail over the last 15 months.

A further 34 have between 40% and 50% of their stores vacant according to a Local Data Company analysis of centres in England, Scotland and Wales with at least 10 retail units in them. 

However, the analysis doesn’t include outdoor retail parks which fared better during the pandemic.

“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,” Lucy Stainton, the commercial director at LDC, told The Guardian newspaper.

She says the indoor nature of most schemes and their lack of “essential retail”, such as food or hardware, has put them at a particular disadvantage with the number of vacant units increasing as a result.

Stephen Springham, the head of retail research at property advisory firm Knight Frank estimates that about 10% of shopping centres are no longer viable. He also told the newspaper that “many shopping centres have been left too long and need a radical rethink”.

He believes a further 20-30% – about 200 – will need a significant overhaul, with stores retained but parts of the centres converted to homes, offices or other uses.

Shopping centres already set for redevelopment are Nottingham’s Broadmarsh, where demolition starts this month, Stockton’s Castlegate, the Riverside centre in Shrewsbury, the Chilterns centre in High Wycombe, and Nicholsons in Maidenhead. Work has already begun to knock down South London’s Elephant & Castle centre.

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

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