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What would a more nationalist and protectionist world look like and what would it entail for real estate investors?

This is the topic that Matt Richardson and Stephen Ryan addressed in a Didobi and Control Risks report published for the Investment Property Forum this week.

The background is that real estate markets have become used to, and in some cases dependent on, cross-border capital flows. However, the rise of nationalism and ardent protectionism threaten to upend the status quo that has been decades in the making.

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Why do towns need to understand commercial sector investor returns and sentiment?

Understanding investor returns in commercial real estate is key to understanding the potential of places. Everyone recognises the need for investment in our towns and cities and this can only come from one of two sources – the public sector or the private sector.

(more…) 06/11/2019
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‘Where you work is more significant than where you sleep’

Extracts from the Universities of Bloomsbury and East London Doctoral Training Partnership Business Collaboration Showcase Event

This event was organised by Didobi and hosted by the UCL, Bloomsbury and East London Doctoral Training Partnership on 22nd October 2019.

(more…) 04/11/2019
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How efficient, effective and secure is your investment data?

If your answer to this question is we store everything on a spreadsheet then read on!

(more…) 23/10/2019
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What were the issues taxing the minds of Expo Real attendees?

Stephen Ryan attended Expo Real, the annual trade fair for Europe’s real estate sector, in Munich this week and shares what issues he came across from speaking with delegates (see https://www.exporeal.net/).

(more…) 11/10/2019
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Why leadership needs more focus from business and places

Following the success of Didobi’s first aide-memoire #CreatingBetterTowns earlier this year, today marks the launch of #CreatingBetterLeaders, an aide-memoire on leadership and teams. This aide-memoire covers the core key considerations from leading self, leading others, community leadership and team building along with examples to judge yourself against.

Both are FREE resources for all to use.

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02/10/2019
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Didobi appointed as independent research consultant to Amazon and Enterprise Nation’s Clicks and Mortar initiative

Enterprise Nation and Amazon launch programme to help small businesses grow on both the high street and online.

More than 100 small online brands given the opportunity to reach customers on the high street for the first time in Clicks and Mortar pop-up shops, in partnership between small business support group Enterprise Nation, Amazon, Direct Line for Business and Square. 

(more…) 03/06/2019
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‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the Arctic sun’ – what can the Arctic and huskies teach you?

The answer is a great deal and last month I was very fortunate to enjoy a lifetime experience of a five-day dog sledding expedition in the arctic. (more…)

08/05/2019
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Why and how can data help us create better places?

In previous blogs the team at Didobi have talked about the need for commercial real estate investors and occupiers to recognise that as well as their core business, which is often their sole focus, they are most importantly in the information or data business. This calls for a joined-up data strategy where all areas of the business that have or create data are integrated in order to effectively create one massive data jigsaw where the picture gives your true insight on your business, its performance and its opportunities and threats.

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Now breath out … What is the impact of further QE likely to be and why is everyone so quiet?

In December 2018 there was barely a mention in the property press of the ECB’s decision to finally halt its’ Quantitative Easing (QE) programme after 5 years. After all, what was the problem? The UK had finished its own programme back in 2015 although the Bank of England had stepped in temporarily with a £60 billion top-up to steady markets following the initial BREXIT vote in 2016, and real estate investment markets across Europe were in rude health. (more…)

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Why Matthew Hopkinson from Didobi created an Aide-Memoire for Towns?

In December 2018 I decided that in order to help Towns better understand the challenges they face there should be something that could be an easy reference document. This came about from completing day one of a #CreatingBetterTowns Masterclass for the Local Government Association with 24 councils and from thinking back to my military days where as a young platoon commander I had a Tactical Aide-Memoire (TAM) that provided all the key information and considerations to do my job. Without it you would have been lost on many occasions especially when situations called for quick responses. (more…)

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How not to waste £675m and how best to create better towns and High Streets

As you will be aware our towns are facing some of the greatest challenges in terms of their form and function for the 21st Century. These challenges come in many forms be they economic such as empty shops or taxation, social as seen in the rise in rough sleeping or loneliness, or environmental such as air quality and recycling. There are many issues which are interlinked and interdependent but are often dealt with within separate silos due to political or organisational structures, funding channels or human nature where rights and responsibilities may not run in tandem. (more…)

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2019 – a year of fortune and luck?

2019 – The Year of the Pig

2019 will be the Year of the Pig according to the Chinese zodiac and starts on 5th February. It states that it will be a great year to make money and a good year to invest! Only time will tell but 2019 should be pivotal for a number of reasons in my view.

  1. Technology know how.

The last decade since the iphone first launched has been a series of ‘firsts’, inventions and rapid evolution of technology which was supported by strong consumer adoption. 2019 is likely to be different as the rate of technological evolution slows, (more…)

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Core, Core Plus or Core Blimey?

Back in 1981 Tversky and Kahneman published “The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice”. In one experiment students were presented with a disaster scenario and asked to choose between two possible solutions. Both had the same expected outcome – a certain number of lives saved, and a certain number of deaths. In a rational world, the respondents should have given equal preference to each scenario but in reality, most students favoured the options which were “framed” around the certainty of saving lives, irrespective of their number.

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Is the East is evolving faster than the West – the story of Alibaba!

On 1st November I was fortunate to be attend the Alibaba Cloud launch for the UK in London. Essentially this was the ‘switching on’ of two data centres near Woking that create a significant extension to the Alibaba Cloud Services platform as the picture below illustrates.

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Why are Blackrock’s results are a warning to the real estate investment sector?

The recent headlines in the financial press regarding the sharp fall in the value of Blackrock shares (Blackrock: a vast money machine splutters – FT 19/10/2018) may seem like distant thunder to many in the UK commercial real estate sector but the implications for the sector could be very real indeed.

(more…)

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Why academia and business can learn more from each other

On 10th October 2018 at Senate House, University of London, I had the pleasure of assisting in the organisation and chairing of an event titled ‘Data Analytics, Innovation and the Impact on Business and Society’. Whilst this might seem a typical title for an event in the heart of one of the world’s leading universities the aim however was somewhat different. The event was co-sponsored by ubel (the London doctoral training partnership), the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) and UCL Innovation & Enterprise. (more…)

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Death and taxes – the causal link in UK retailing?

In the 2018 the number of retail closures and examples of retailers in distress has taken many by surprise. The Centre for Retail Research data shows that this year 27 retail companies have failed, 1,965 stores affected and 38,855 employees. If you go back to January 2009 when the structural changes to retail began when over 800 Woolworths closed on one day causing mild hysteria for towns and shoppers alike then the numbers between then and now look like this:

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Are your people P.E.O.P.L.E.?

August is for many people a quieter work month or one where you take some well-deserved holiday, farmers excepted! As such I thought I would pen a few words on one of my passions in life which is people. Throughout my life I have enjoyed meeting and working with people from all backgrounds and that continues to this day and will hopefully continue to the end of my days! I learnt much of this from following my father about, looking and listening to how he connected with people. Very sadly he died in January 2016 but the attendance at his funeral and the many letters that my mother, my siblings and I received truly brought home what being a people person is all about. So during this quiet period I thought that I would ask you if your people are P.E.O.P.L.E.? (more…)

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Are you and your property investment data fit for purpose?

Time For A Change In Direction?

One of the main characteristics of this last real estate investment cycle has been the growth in cross border capital flows that has had a huge impact on asset prices and increasingly dictates market pricing. Indeed, it could be argued that this represents a seachange in attitudes with global investors finally recognising that real estate is an investment asset class in its own right that should form part of a diversified portfolio alongside equity and fixed income. (more…)

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Why Westminster can’t save the UK high street

Guest blog by Bill Grimsey. First appeared in Daily Telegraph on 4th July 2018 when #GrimseyReview2 was launched at the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham, UK. Matthew Hopkinson was a co-author. The review is available to download from our publications site here.

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Who is leading change in your organisation – technology, data or people?

The answer should be people leading change empowered by technology and data. The reality is that in many organisations people are not sufficiently skilled to harness the power of technology or data to make decisions. Interpretation of data and being able to communicate it as a compelling story to others is a skill which many cannot do, have not been trained to do or lack the confidence to change what they have been doing for many years where data and technology was of little relevance. (more…)

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Data science and technology is identifying the needs for over a million Electric Vehicles in the UK

This is a guest blog by Alice Goudie from Emu Analytics, a massively innovative and capable company in London, that shows how data science, mapping and analysis will help drive a better world.

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Data in action that is creating a vibrant Belgian town

In 2013 I was involved in co-authoring The Grimsey Review – An alternative future for our high streets. Again in 2018 we are doing #GrimseyReview2 which will look at the first review 5 years on and will take a more comprehensive and case study approach to what is a major issue for towns not just in the UK but across the world. It is about towns, cities and places not high streets. A high street is a function of a place and not a standalone entity.

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Where is Roeselare and why are the #GrimseyReview2 team visiting it this week- part 1

This week four members of the #GrimseyReview2 team will visit a town in Belgium. Why I hear you ask? It might seem odd in this time of BREXIT getting all the attention that a team from the UK is visiting a town in Europe that having read #GrimseyReview1 back in 2013 got in touch to say they were going to implement many of the recommendations. This they have done and to great success in many areas so we are going to see and hear the WHAT, HOW and WHY from Roeselare’s mayor. How ironic that a Belgian town has adopted recommendations from a UK report! (more…)

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Grimsey Review 1 – what were the recommendations?

As I sit down to write the data and evidence chapter with considerably more material than in 2013 I am drawn to what we wrote in 2013 and ask myself;

What has changed?

A lot has changed in retailing, taxation, planning, policy and in our towns and in the consumers mind and hand (technology) but the first review set out to suggest how best to manage and monitor our towns so we could create the best places in the face of unprecedented change both in terms of speed and outcomes. (more…)

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What does today’s news tells us about the form and function of place?

Today, 11th April 2018, is an interesting day in terms of data around companies and places in the UK. The most anticipated news was around Tesco’s latest results. In addition to this LDC and PwC released their bi-annual report around the openings and closures of chain retailers in Britain’s top 500 cities and towns. The third ‘running news’ is that Hammerson has rejected an improved offer for their business from French shopping centre owner Klepierre.

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Why Grimsey Review 2?

In the wake of recent news about distressed retailers (30,000 according to Begbies Traynor), CVAs, administrations and closures (Warren Evans, Thomas Cook, Carluccio’s, Jamie Oliver, Byron, Toys R Us, M&S, Prezzo, Maplin, New Look and East to name but a few this year) along with the 2017 Business Rates Revaluation and Brexit, Veteran retailer Bill Grimsey former CEO of Wickes, Iceland, Booker and Focus DIY has  put together a team of experienced professionals, from various backgrounds, to revisit the first Grimsey Review  “An Alternative Future for the High Street” that was published in Westminster in 2013. (more…)

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Real Estate Investment Managers – What Business Are You Actually In?

This may seem a curious question but one of the popular misconceptions for real estate investment managers is that they are actually in the real estate business. Sure, we all work WITH real estate but let’s take a step back and consider for one moment what the investment industry is actually about.

‘Let’s take a step back and consider for one moment what the investment industry is actually about.’

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Armageddon week in weather and retail. Are they linked?

This week (26 Feb to 2 March) has been the most significant for a long time with regards the fortunes of UK retailers and food and beverage operators. We have seen the administrations of Toys R Us (106 stores and 3,000 jobs), Maplin (217 stores and 2,335 people). There is also talk of closures from Prezzo(100 stores) and Mothercare (152 stores) as well as Carpetright’s (426 stores) profit warning, its’ third in four months!

This comes off the back of other administrations in 2018 of East (34 stores) and Warren Evans (14 stores). Rumours are also rife about a New Look CVA next week. (more…)

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BBC commentary – The background to M&S store closures and the reasons

Our first outing on the airwaves talking to Winifred Robinson about Marks and Spencer store closures on BBC Radio 4 You and Yours programme – 31 Jan.

Why are they having to do this and what lies behind their strategy. There should be no surprise as all businesses have t adapt and change and M&S has such history and expectation on its shoulders that it is harder for them than most. Shareholders expectations are a big driver which is where private businesses like Aldi luck out! 

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Why dramatic changes in data and technology need radical changes from business leaders

This week I was privileged to to an after dinner speech to a group of senior property professionals. This is what I told them!

“Good evening and thank you for your kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be amongst so many surveyors having started my commercial life twenty years ago under Michael Nicholson’s, tutorage at FOCUS – the first UK data entrepreneur!

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What do the Christmas retailer results tells us about the British High Street?

The majority of the Christmas sales results of the public companies have now been published. So what do they tell us about the state of retail and the British High Street? High Street is a commonly used term for a shop in many news outlets but the physical reality when you consider it as a ‘place’ is that it resides within a town or city centre and is a mix of unit sizes and with a number of landlords – some active and some passive or indeed not known at all. As such the aim of this blog is to look at an overview of results by retailer as best one can as not all will be measuring sales in the same way but where ever possible I have tried to take like for like sales for the Christmas period. (more…)

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Is New Look’s credit downgrade reflective of the retailer or the industry?

This week saw Moodys downgrade New Look and House of Fraser’s credit ratings. With this in mind and the fact that there is a new management team at New Look delivering a new strategy then a shallow dive on their physical store estate is of interest especially when benchmarked to others in the fashion and clothing sector.

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How are Scotland’s towns and cities performing as retail and leisure destinations?

On November 28th, was the Local Data Company’s (LDC) fifth Scottish Retail and Leisure Trends Summitheld in partnership with the University of Stirling. The report revealed interesting insights as to how Scottish centres are performing relative to England and Wales but also relative to each other. There was also a short presentation by Chris Fowler of LDC on how data is being captured and used at a local level to understand performance and opportunity with a case study from Aberdeenshire Council on the town of Peterhead. (more…)

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Where are we seeing the growth in F&B in terms of location type? (Part 3 F&B Market Series)

Closer analysis of the fastest growing fasciae within the F&B market shows shopping centres as a key growth area. For example, the top 30 fasciae have increased their presence in shopping centres by +170 units. Of these, the top 10 have the lion’s share with an increase of +109 units. High streets have seen little change and for retail parks there has been a marginal increase with the likes of Costa and Krispy Kreme opening more than 20 units each. The one standout growth fascia on the high street is Costa who have added another +26 units. (more…)

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Who and where are the risers and fallers in the UK food and beverage market? (Part 2 F&B Market Series)

Part 1 of this food and beverage snapshot showed the accelerated growth in F&B outlets across the UK in the last 12 months (from July 2016) with growth coming from both independent operators and chains (with more than five units nationally). Part 1 covered the macro trends and this next section will look at which operators have been growing and contracting, along with the location types where this change is occurring.

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Can Britain’s appetite for eating and drinking outlets be sustained? – Part 1

New analysis by LDC shows some significant trends in the openings and closures of food and beverage (F&B) outlets across the country. ONS data released in February 2017 showed that spending by households on restaurants and hotels was now more than £45 per week, which is the highest in five years. In February last year, NPD Group published figures that claimed Britons spent a total of £52.2bn eating out in 2015 and that this will rise to £54.7bn by 2017. Burgers alone accounted for £4.2bn of spend, with coffee forecast to rise from £2.17bn in 2015 to £2.4bn in 2017. (more…)

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Growth in Britain’s eating out establishments reaches 5 year peak

A new report by The Local Data Company (LDC) reveals that the number of new food and beverage (F&B) outlets opening across Great Britain has reached a new peak in the last 12 months.

In the last 5 years the average annual growth rate of F&B outlets was +743 new units per year (net), but in the last 12 months the number of new units nearly doubled to 1,333 (+44%).

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Is it competition or cannibalisation that seals the fate of Tesco and other supermarkets?

Over the last twenty -five years the supermarkets have been rapidly expanding their presence across the country in what was often called the ‘race for space’. This included physical store building as well as banking land to prevent competitor expansion. More recently we have seen a surge in convenience store formats in town and city centres. The number of formats has tripled and food stores are now the desired anchor for many new developments and not the traditional department stores. (more…)

01/10/2019
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What are the key challenges shown in Sainsbury’s latest results for all supermarkets?

2015 will be the Year of the Supermarket not in a promotional way but more of a Darwinian way of ‘adapt or die’. The big four are all public companies which enables us to see, subject to the accuracy of the figures, what the impact of a changing consumer, a fiercely competitive market and demanding shareholders is doing to these significant UK businesses. Not only are they a critical food source but they also employ hundreds of thousands of people in every town up and down the country. (more…)

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Where did fashion retailer Bank bank on it?

The FIRST retailer administration of 2015 has arrived with Bank the fashion retailer. Over 80 stores but 70% are in shopping centres and not on the High Street. Is it as a result of a very crowded market, poor offering or POOR LOCATIONS? The LDC/Morgan Stanley Health Index shows that of its shop locations 25% are in WEAKENING locations with only 6% in Strengthening locations. Also of not is that 25% of shops are in the North West which has seen the sharpest impact of vacancy rates and the persistence of vacancy.

Analysis of other retailers on LDC’s Insight platform shows that others are not too dissimilar – the big question is do you know who and are they in your town or shopping centre? Which landlords will be most impacted?

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What does 2015 hold for retailers, towns, retail parks and shopping centres?

Happy New Year! The christmas period has been a fascinating one in terms of retail. It all started with the online frenzy days of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and White Saturday. It was reported that Amazon alone shipped 11 million items in the UK on those two days alone! Websites crashed, froze, set up queuing systems and others reverted to the message of ‘essential maintenance- please try again later’! Added to this Yodel declared that it could not keep up with demand and then we have recently seen the demise of CityLink! The perfect storm had happened and without any of the snow of 2013! Imagine if the weather had added to the mix!! (more…)

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What did LDC do in 2014?

2014 has been a busy and fruitful year for The Local Data Company. Throughout the year we have hosted 6 events across the UK that attracted over 685 attendees. These events would not have been a success without the contributions from panelists and attendees so thank you all for your contribution.

There has been continued interest from the press and media about the state of the high street, retail parks, shopping centres and administrations up and down the country. We have been fortunate to appear in the Financial Times, on BBC, 6pm news, 10pm news, You and Yours and Wake Up to Money to name but a few. (more…)

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Does opportunity knock for all of Scotland’s towns and cities?

40% of empty shops in Scotland’s towns have remained vacant for more than three years! This week we published our second report on Scotland’s towns and cities in partnership with The Institute for Retail Studies, The University of Stirling. The report’s key findings were presented at the offices of KPMG in Edinburgh by Professor Leigh Sparks of The University of Stirling.

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Globalisation and investment cycles – what could possibly go wrong?

I have spent the last two days immersed in the Grand Hotel Brighton with the great and the good of the institutional property investment market at the Investment Property Databank (IPD) and Investment Property Forum (IPF) annual conference. It was a very thought provoking event and a pleasure to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. The quality of conversation was excellent in that it challenged my limited economics knowledge and at the same time enabled me to learn from such exceptional economics commentators including Robert Peston (BBC Economics editor) and Gerard Lyons (adviser to Boris Johnson). (more…)

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Is service the key differentiator that will determine the success of the high street?

The last few weeks have seen a flurry of sales results including growth, decline, profit warnings and the launch of new formats. Many talk of convenience being key and that we define our choice and knowledge from online sources and that shops (on and offline) are transaction hubs only or, as is my view, brand ‘oxygen’ where consumers connect with product and people. We are social beings who associate with values and emotions – the best communicant of this is often another person. (more…)

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UK Retail – facts, measurements and viewpoints

British Government figures from 2012 show that UK wholesale and retail trade contributed 16% of economic output and 16% (4.3 million people) of employment. More up to date data from April 2014 shows that consumers in the UK spent around £27 billion and of every £1 spent (online or in shops but excluding petrol stations) £0.47 was spent in food stores and £0.46 was spent in non-food stores with the remainder spent in market stores.

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UK investor sentiment and reality – Q3 2014

As a member of the Investment Property Forum (IPF) I attend the Investment Property Databank (IPD) who are now owned by MCSCI, joint investment update with the IPF. Today was the day to see the numbers from Q3 2014. In summary, it was very positive news with regards the market being as strong as it has been pre the crash in 2007/8. However, it was very clear that London is a ‘country in its own right when it comes to comparison to other regions and UK countries. These numbers relate to institutional investments only and the sample size has increased to 9,712 properties across all property types. (more…)

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Chain reaction – how chain retailers continue to adapt to the new Total Retail world

Last week we published in partnership with PwC data on the openings and closures of chain retailers in the top 500 towns. At our Openings & Closures Summit on 13th October kindly hosted by Hogan Lovells we also presented on the wider impact of the changes GB wide as clearly retail parks and big malls are a destination of choice for many. Here are the key findings of what the chains are up to in the top 500 towns.

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More Independent shops open in H1 2014 than at any time since 2011

This week we published some analysis on the health of the independent shops sector. It shows that traditional independent shops and leisure outlets continue to increase in Britain’s town centres whilst the chains continue to retreat. Contrary to popular belief independent high street businesses have continued to grow every year since 2009 albeit in smaller numbers as the years have passed. In 2010 the net change (openings less closures) in stores grew by 4% and in 2014 this growth reduced to 0.37%. Comparison goods (non perishable goods) retailers have been the exception to the rule and have shown consistent decline since 2012 with a net loss of over 600 (-2%) comparison goods shops. (more…)

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‘Not all boats rise on the tide’ – analysis of GB’s H1 2014 vacancy rates

This morning, at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s offices in London, The Local Data Company’s (LDC) latest report on vacancy rates entitled ‘Not All Boats Rise On The Tide’ was presented by me at LDC’s 10th Retail Summit. It analyses over 3,000 town centres, shopping centres and retail parks. The report analyses retail and leisure vacancy rates in the first half of 2014 to deliver the most comprehensive insight on the health of Britain’s towns, retail parks and shopping centres.

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Britain’s shop vacancy rate in August falls to its lowest level since June 2010

Britain’s vacancy rate fell in August to 13.3% from 13.4% in July. This is its lowest level since June 2010. The overall retail and leisure vacancy rate also decreased from 11.9% to 11.8%. Analysis of vacancy rates by occupation type shows that Shop vacancy in August was 13.3% (-0.1%), Leisure vacancy was 7.7% (+0.05), and All (Retail & Leisure) vacancy rate was 11.8% (-0.1%).

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How the parking debate has come to hit a prominent discounter!

As many authors have stated including Benjamin Franklin there are only two certainties in life – ‘death and taxes’. Applied to retail then this would have to be business rates and parking charges. Any reader of debate around the health or otherwise of our town centres will have these two issues crop up as frequently as our obsession to talk about the weather.

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What determines the ‘health’ of a place?

Last week we released a new overview dashboard to our online insight platform (LDO). This was not just a software release but also a significant milestone on our journey to better understand the heartbeat of the UK’s retail and leisure locations many of which are a key feature of many communities.

As part of the ‘jigsaw’ we are building at LDC the new pieces, which we brought to the new overview tab, were: (more…)

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The first 12 Portas Towns – how have they changed two years on?

The BBC (Radio 4, You & Yours) commissioned LDC to update analysis we did for them last year with regards key indicators on the first 12 Portas Towns. We analysed vacancy rates, openings and closures and the independent vs multiple mix.

Background
These first 12 towns were announced on 26 May 2012 by the then High Streets Minister, Grant Schapps, and were selected from 370 applications as part of the Portas Review recommendations. (more…)

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The High Street – dead or alive?

Below is a piece I recently wrote for Retail Week as part of the LDC Thought Leadership series.

This question is often asked and in my view it is far too simplistic as there are so many different changes happening across the thousands of High Streets that LDC walks every day that to make a yes or no answer would be impossible. A more appropriate question is about how sustainable are many high streets and do they have economic health. This is the challenge between the misused word ‘community’ and the reality of running a shop or owning a shop on a high street. (more…)

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The British High Street abroad!

Last week I headed to Turkey for a last minute week in the sun with my family. We were based in the south west of Turkey with the nearest towns being Oludeniz and Fethiye. In light of what I do at LDC I could not help myself but take a tour of the Turkish high streets and markets in our vicinity and was surprised in a number of ways.

Firstly, whilst I appreciate that where we were was very geared to the British tourist, I was surprised as to the way the local Turkish businesses have adjusted to attract the British Pound and I mean Pound as the traders would take anything from Turkish Lira, to British Pounds, Euros and even US Dollars. This just shows how important foreign currency is to these economies and the flexibility and lengths these businesses go to achieve sales. (more…)

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If music be the food of love, play on!

I have attended a couple of events and hosted one in the last two weeks that all touched on or covered in detail the role of food and beverage (F&B) in the places we traditionally shopped. The growth of F&B has been everywhere not just in the traditional high street. Shopping centres and retail/leisure parks all have expanded the opportunity for us to eat, drink and be merry in the hope we might shop as well.

Food first appeared in shopping centres 25 years ago but it is only recently with the new schemes that the impact has been noticeable. LDC analysis (by unit) shows great variance in the provision of F&B in shopping centres. (more…)

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Are we out of recession and is opportunity knocking?

Yesterday I attended the St Bride’s Managers update at The Magic Circle in London. Was the magic Circle coincidence or a reflection that we need some magic to turn things around?

My takeaways were as follows and show that there are so many moving parts in modern economies that it is often challenging to align them all to reach a clear view.

Some of the more concerning issues (Bad News) that the UK economy face include: (more…)

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Are our vacant shops filling up?

LDC publishes today its latest national vacancy rates from May 2014. The simple answer is that the last six months have seen a progressive improvement in the shop vacancy rate for Great Britain. This is significant, as we have not seen such a prolonged period of consistent reduction in the number of empty shops in our town centres.

The shop vacancy rate in May reached its to its lowest level since June 2010. The shop vacancy rate decreased by a further 0.1% to 13.4%. This is a marked improvement from a year ago when the rate was 14.1%.

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Do androids dream of electric high streets? (Guest Blog)

This is my third guest blog and this time it is written by Katie Shaw who heads up our field research operations at LDC. Whilst there is lots of data out there, made more fashionable via the Big Data mantra, there is not much that one can really equate with consistent quality and thus valuable analytics. Outside of the financial markets quality data is difficult to come by and this blog by Katie shows how we deal with these issues in order to deliver the quality that everyone at LDC is proud of and works tirelessly to maintain. Thank you Katie!  (more…)

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How fashionable are fashion shops in our town centres?

The fashion industry is worth £26billion to the UK’s economy, which is an increase of 22% since 2009 (source British Fashion Council) but according to research by Oxford Economics the number of jobs in the industry is down by 2.4% since 4 years ago and as shops are a major employer it suggests that changes are afoot when it comes to bricks and mortar fashion outlets.

In light of the knowledge The Local Data Company (LDC) has from the data we collect across the country I am very quickly able to answer this question through (more…)

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#NewsKnowledge – Tanning Shops

On BBC Radio 4 Today programme there was a piece around tanning salons being a health risk with many not being maintained to the required standards. Last week there were various articles which focussed this problem on Blackpool – here is the link to the BBC piece. For many high street visitors tanning salons used to be very popular in the 1990s but since then they have been overtaken by charity shops, cheque cashing, coffee and betting shops!

Today LDC tracks 1,238 standalone tanning shops and no doubt more tanning beds will exist in other health and beauty locations (add another 10,000 outlets!). (more…)

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Fashion from a consumer point of view and the relationship between bricks and clicks!

Today I have my second guest blog from my right hand lady (assistant) Melissa Watson who is also one of the LDC fashionista. As someone who is in her twenties it is worth reading what and how she and her friends think and do when they ‘shop fashion’! Thank you Mel for a great blog!

The fashion industry is worth £26billion to the UK’s economy, (more…)

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We are running out of bricks so we must be out of recession?

Deidre Hipwell in The Times recently wrote (27 March 2014) ‘The making of bricks in Britain has fallen so steeply that the country has the equivalent of only about two months’ of supply in stock, an industry leader has warned.’

The head of Michelmersh Brick Holdings said that a “difficult five years” meant that brick stock levels had fallen from 1.1 billion bricks to 332 million, adding that “you can’t just switch that production back on overnight”. (more…)

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Foot smart and fancy free!

This is the first of many guest blogs (I hope!) that will address specific issues that relate to data, technology and the retail and leisure sectors & places. This first one is written by my digital design colleague Alex Oswald. Who will be first to adopt? Nike or Church’s Shoes? Thank you Alex for taking the time to blog.

It seems that there are no bounds to how far innovators will go to make our lives easier – or should that read lazier!

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Are footfall stats as relevant and significant as they once used to be?

Footfall has been a key health barometer for shopping locations but in light of the changing purpose of our shopping places and the rise of leisure uses is it as significant as it once was? Regularly footfall statistics are published by a number of providers and often there can be differences in numbers and trends, which I presume are a result of differing collection methods, locations and analysis. There have been new entrants in the market as well, namely the mobile phone operators who track every movement of our mobile phones. (more…)

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Has Rotherham turned a corner?

There has been lots of media interest around Mary Portas’ visit to Rotherham recently and it appears that great things have been happening there with the town team. In light of a blog I read this morning saying that LDC misrepresents the vacancy rate, I felt it appropriate to reply with what the field researched data tells me. Our field army last visited Rotherham in January, so the analysis that I am going to allude to is from then and not now. Rotherham, as many will know, has many challenges in common with other towns and cities up and down the country. A post industrial crisis of employment, proximity to a large metropolitan centre (Sheffield) and one of the largest retail parks in the country (Meadowhall) as well as (more…)

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Are estate agents recession proof?

You may or may not have seen some numbers I ran for Deidre Hipwell of The Times article yesterday on estate agents. Now you would think that with a recession and house price crash that the number of estate agent ‘shops’ would have declined. The reality is that they have overall increased marginally over the last few years. Anecdotal evidence and conversations that I have had will say that the change comes in terms of estate agents as people rather than as ‘shops’. Whilst their shops stayed open (a key marketing space) the number of agents reduced behind the windows of property particulars.

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What happened to all those shops that went into administration?

Over the last few months Deloitte and their data scientists have worked with our data on looking at what happened to the shops of the top 27 administrations that took place. The results were published on Friday but show that the majority of them have been reoccupied. The 27 were Alexon, Allders, Barratts, Bay Trading, Blacks/Millets, Blockbuster, Clinton Cards (exc Birthdays), Comet, Dreams, Ethel Austin, Focus DIY, Game (exc. Gamestation), Habitat, HMV, Homeform, Jane Norman, JJB, Julian Graves, La Senza, Land of Leather, MK One, Oddbins, Past Times, Peacocks (exc. Bon Marche), Pumpkin Patch, TJ Hughes and Woolworths. (more…)

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Who owns UK property? Not who you might think!

I am fortunate to be a member of the Investment Property Forum, which is an organization, like a club, that only allows membership after you have been vetted as ‘suitable’. It’s website descriptor is;

“Set up in 1988, the Investment Property Forum (IPF) is the leading UK property investment organisation for individual members. It comprises an influential network of senior professionals all active in the property investment market.

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The comings and goings of our shopping and leisure destinations!

Time flies and so I have to apologise for not getting this to you all quicker. You may or may not have seen that we published some data around openings and closures of retail and leisure businesses across Great Britain in 2013. We looked at chain retailers in partnership with PwC and then we looked at Independents with BIRA (British Independent Retailers Association). We then wrapped it all together with a summit courtesy of Hogan Lovells in London where we had an excellent chairman in Damian Wild, editor of Estates Gazette along with a panel of experts – (more…)

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A new era of retailing.

The sentence above is one that has been common in the last two years and most recently it was used by Philip Clarke (CEO Tesco) at Retail Week Live to describe the journey Tesco is on. Of any sector or CEO Philip Clarke is in the thick of change and faces the challenges on the new era and the new consumer!

It was interesting to be reminded that Tesco launched online grocery over 17 years ago (1997)! Since then life has moved on from mere transacting to interaction and involvement. The rise of convenience retailing has reiterated, even with the borderless Internet, that proximity based retailing is still the key DNA to retailing. (more…)

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Green shoots in the auction room!

Yesterday I attended the Acuitus/IPD auctions update for 2013. It was a very interesting morning that showed the renewed appetite of investors to enter the market but the issue of a very hot market and a lack of stock.

Anuj Patel of IPD kicked off with lots of data and graphs. The main stats were that their All Property Index (returns) was 10.5% in 2013 and Standard Shops 9.6%.  Income return is driving these numbers. Other factors coming into play during the year were yield compression but also minimal rental growth. One of the key indicators to me was that in December 2012 140 properties sold at a value of £68.7m but in December 2013 this had risen to 202 properties at a value of £122.7m. A good year for auctioneers! (more…)

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Business rates – tax or subsidy?

This week has seen another report on our high streets, this one from Ken Shuttleworth (The Gherkin architect) and others along with the BIS Select Committee stating that business rates are ‘not fit for purpose and need a complete overhaul’. This follows on from other reports of which the Grimsey Review, through solid evidence based research, in its 12th recommendation stated The business rates system needs a root and branch review to establish a flexible system that will reflect changes in economic conditions as they occur’. The facts as detailed in the Grimsey Review are as follows:

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Best Buy Mk 2? Dixons and Carphone Warehouse set to marry?

On 30th April 2010 Best Buy, the giant electronics retailer opened its first UK store in Thurrock. The Carphone Warehouse then acquired a 50% stake in Best Buy Europe – a marriage made in heaven many said. The best of both – big box discount retailing from the US and an established and respected mobile phone retailer in the UK and Europe. What could go wrong and how would Comet and Dixons survive such a giant being formed in a very tight and difficult market in an exceptionally challenging time for retailers!

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Vacancy rates, puns and travel hubs!

This week has been a very busy week. It started with our 9th Retail Summit, which was held at Freshfields in London. Over 160 people turned out to hear how whilst vacancy rates have started to slowly come down we are seeing this only in the ‘South” but in the ‘North” the opposite is true. So the north/south divide is certainly very evident and growing when you look at vacancy rates. London and the South East are c.10% and the North East and North West are 17%! The other reality is that secondary towns, the Stockports, Walsalls, Boltons, Prestons, Wolverhamptons, Bootles, Aldershots, Rochdales, Swanseas and Kirkcaldy are also struggling with high vacancy rates as a result of oversupply in the number of retail and leisure units which is exacerbated by (more…)

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Dublin, Academia and Data!

I had the pleasure last week to be asked to speak to the Masters course at the Dublin Institute of Technology, which is home to Ireland’s main business school. I spoke about Britain’s retail economy and places looking at the structural changes taking place and the drivers behind these changes.

Dublin is a lovely and what I would describe as a personal city. The people are warm, friendly and busy. In fact it is the one place in the world that I have visited where every other person seems to carry a guitar or musical instrument of some sort! Ireland is home to some major companies including Google, Facebook and Salesforce and so (more…)

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Opportunity knocks but at what price?

So the Christmas trading results are now behind us with the last two Poundland (sales +12%) and WH Smith (sales -4%) showing the variance in sales performance during the Christmas period. That said WH Smith has still managed to keep costs down and remain profitable! Off the back of these results and the drop in unemployment there is upbeat talk of a recovery, especially pre any interest rate rise, which has lead to talk of retailer IPOs which is something we have not heard talked about for a long time. Some of the names mentioned include Poundland, Pets at Home, McColl’s, Card Factory, Game Group and Fat Face.

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Recovery? Real, respite or rubbish?

The last two weeks have seen a plethora of data about the economy and the state of retail in general. Today the latest ONS figures show retail sales up 5% year on year for December with independents fairing well. How these figures are derived I have no idea but what is clear is that it was a mixed Christmas trading period with a real spread of performances. The variances of what L4L sales are vary from retailer to retailer but it is clear to me that the one word that sums it all up is ‘polarisation’. Polarisation in the context I mean is related to sales. Those retailers that are growing sales and profitability (Next), those that are growing sales at the cost of profits (Debenhams) and those doing neither (Morrisons and Mothercare). (more…)

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The week of reckoning – what the Christmas trading results say!

Firstly, may I take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy New Year! I think that 2014 is going to be a very interesting year for retail and is going to be one of polarisation between retailers, brands, places and people. There is much talk of a recovery albeit it tentatively which is good news as in many cases consumer confidence and resulting sentiment builds off such news. House prices are one good example, which shows the diversity in recovery depending on where you live! Sevenoaks folk will be delighted but the poor folk of Blackburn perhaps not or indeed the folk of Whalley in Lancashire who are due to see a double of their housing stock with new builds. (more…)

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2013 vs 2014. My last blog post of the year!

As we close for the Christmas period it always aids reflection of what was in 2013 and what might be in the year ahead. I have put down a few summary thoughts in this respect in no particular order:

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Blockbuster – the next step in High Street evolution

Next week sees the closure of all Blockbuster shops. From having had 528 shops it will disappear completely. Woolworths was the same but had over 820 shops and that disappeared five years ago – yes five years have passed since the real issues on the high street came home to roost. Since then thousands of shops have come and gone – on average there are 50,000 openings and closures across Great Britain every year.

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What the numbers behind the autumn statement for the High Street really mean

The autumn statement can be considered as good news for our town centres. Some we had heard prior with Hugh Pym’s (BBC) scoop on the 2% cap but the two surprises for me were the £1,000 discount for sub £50,000 RV premises and the 50% rates discount for reoccupation of long term vacant property.

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Future Towns

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting to the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium event on Future Towns held at Sadler’s Wells in London. I was but one of a number of keynote presenters which were interspersed with case studies for the consortium’s geographical area of interest. The audience numbered about eighty and was in the main public sector with a few retailers and academics.

The event was ably chaired by Greg Clark, Chair of the LSCC, who I recently came across when I spoke at the British BIDs conference, as he was also the chair then. (more…)

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What is a healthy high street?

Today has been an interesting news day with two, much commented upon, fast growing occupiers of our high streets stating the value they add economically through employment and footfall to the high streets they fill. The two business types I am referring to are charity shops (Demos report) and betting shops (Paddy Power). Both of these business types, along with pawnbrokers, fast food, coffee shops, cheque cashing, nail bars, pound shops, and tattoo parlours have been expanding during the recession. At the same time, during the early part of the recession (2008-2011), we have seen a fourfold increase in the number of vacant shops – many of which are long term vacant with little prospect of being reoccupied. The basis economics of supply and demand therefore show how this change has come about in nearly every high street up and down the country. (more…)

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The real challenges facing the High Street!

Many column inches are written on stats from the High Street such as the recent ONS sales figures (-0.7%) and the BRC drop in footfall. The same happens when we publish vacancy rates or the number of openings and closures. It is a great sector to work in as there is always a story to be had and you can take your pick from the good, to the bad, to the ugly! With all data, however, it is important to evaluate the source and how comprehensive it is. Not all are the same and so if someone says that seaside towns are dead and bases it on analysis of six seaside towns when there are many more, (more…)

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Business Improvement Districts and their role in place management.

I had the pleasure of speaking at the British BIDs conference this week in London. BIDs, as place management entities, are growing significantly and were borne out of their success in North America. They now number over 162 (150 at the time of the survey), of which 122 contributed to the British BIDs annual survey (which I would recommend that you read). I was but one of a number of speakers at the conference, so my aim here is to summarise the key points that I found of interest for the world of retail and leisure and the places they operate from. (more…)

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The two screens to cinema!

Yesterday I attended a Cushman & Wakefield event that covered the cinema market. It was about ten years ago that everyone was saying that cinemas would be extinct, as everyone moved to on-demand television and films with the rise of film clubs such as LoveFilm and Netflix. The reality is that, whilst there has been a decline in the number of cinemas from 775 to 750 in the last ten years, the actual number of screens have increased by over 10% to 3,858 as of the end of 2012.

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Is Government informed enough on the state of UK retail to govern effectively?

So is today is the ‘end of the beginning’, as the final witnesses present themselves in Committee Room 8 for the The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee inquiry into the UK retail sector. Today’s turn is Bill Grimsey who led on the most scientific and comprehensive retail review to date. (I am biased as I was part of it, but it was a first in terms of coming from a factual and evidence base and working up.) Next up are two politicians, Brandon Lewis (MP for Great Yarmouth), the new ‘High Streets’ Minister but one in a more junior ministerial position than his predecessor Mark Prisk; (more…)

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Who is the most important person on earth?

This question was asked of Martin Sorrell recently and without hesitation his answer was Jeff Bezos of Amazon (who incidentally turns 50 in January so he is not vintage). Is he right? This story from Bryan Roberts was a good start to the debate at today’s Squire Sanders retail event in Leeds.

So here are the main ‘take-aways’ for me from the event. I will endeavor not to duplicate anything that also came up in London.

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Churn – good or bad for our economy and town centres?

Today I presented at the first LDC Openings & Closures Summit, which Hogan Lovells kindly hosted in London. We had an excellent chair in Damian Wild, Editor of the Estates Gazette, along with a top panel. The panellists were Mathew Ditchburn from Hogan Lovells, Sam Fenwick from the BBC You & Yours consumer programme, Calum Ewing who is property director at Metro Bank, Michael Weedon from BIRA, Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale, and Dr Karen Sieracki from Kaspar Associates who is a veteran property investment analyst. (more…)

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Did you know there are two rabbits in UK retail?

Today the team at Squire Sanders, an international law firm, asked me along as one of a number of guest speakers to discuss issues in retail. The 40+ strong audience (speakers and guests) were an mix of retailers (more of this later), landlords, lawyers, consultants, and trainers. Before reporting on the aspects I found interesting, I have to say that a very amusing relationship between two of the retailers present came to light. Pets At Home discussed their multi-channel strategy but stressed the significance of the ‘bunny village’ they have in each store – at great expense! (more…)

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Here goes – my entry into the blogosphere!

So today I have been up in the North West. I exited the train at Preston, a town I have known for many years. My next stop was Clitheroe so I made my way to the bus station. As with anything in life, humans are quick to judge and consumers in a town are no different. On my ‘Preston journey’ I walked along the high street and through three shopping centres. My observations of Preston were both positive and negative.

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