Home » Blog » Diversify your retail space

Diversify your retail space

Aug 26, 2021 • 12 min read

Seeing dormant retail spaces is disheartening, but with the right approach, any void units in your retail estate can deliver strong returns. Physical retail space has traditionally been a magnet that draws communities together. People enjoy shopping as a leisure pastime with local economies thriving as people spend. Data shows us how shopping patterns have changed during the last decade. The UK’s three national lockdowns have further accelerated this change. However, our retail assets can evolve to keep pace with shoppers’ evolving needs. Many people want new and tailored shopping experiences with a community-oriented sense of belonging. Hybrid shopping, work and leisure buying experiences are also becoming much more popular.

So where do retail opportunities lie?

By cleverly repurposing your retail space you can deliver richer and more compelling shopping experiences with wider appeal. With the right strategy and thinking any shopping centre vacancies you have are exciting opportunities to diversify your portfolio and increase your retail rental yields.

The Changing Face of Retail

Fluctuating market forces and consumer habits are rapidly changing retail spaces. People don’t tend to visit town centres for just one item. Instead, shopping is a leisure activity to relax and socialise with friends. Being immersed with people from the same area and interacting with local shop owners makes people feel like part of their community. Stopping for lunch becomes part of the day-out experience. Leisure activities may also be incorporated. Huge retail parks like Cheshire Oaks have installed child-friendly areas to further break up a shopping day, pulling in the family demographic.

The impact of repurposing your retail space with digital solutions

Your retail space has the potential to make a huge impact on our world. Rethinking its purpose; enables your units to appeal to a wider, more lucrative demographic. Let’s take a look at how repurposing retail space with technology at its core is making a huge impact on our local communities and our wider environment.

The changing ways that people live, work and play

According to the UN, 68% of people are expected to live in urban centres by 2050. This is highly promising for shopping centres, many of which are located in the hub of urban centres. Clever planning needs to sit at the heart of repurposing processes. With a strong digital strategy retail spaces can be turned into magnets that capitalise on the trend towards live-work-play communities. The masses of space and parking that come with these locations, make them ripe for diversification, regeneration and exploitation.

One of the best examples of a retail space that has fully adopted the live-work-play planning culture is the Liverpool One Shopping complex in Liverpool. Describing itself as a shopping, residential, and leisure complex, the city boasts exclusive apartment complexes, boutique designer shops and a huge range of restaurants. The retail zones welcome pop-up shops, Christmas markets and even host seasonal entertainment such as children’s Christmas experiences in big tents. The shopping centre itself is cleverly designed with a hybrid of leisure activities melded together in a way that forms a perfect day out. It comprises quirky bars, crazy golf and a huge, multiplex cinema as its beating heart. Based on a smart city strategy, the complex is Liverpool’s success story, pulling in crowds from great distances like a magnet.

Smart city strategies drive growth

The upwardly trending live-work-play culture relies on smart city technology with a digital backbone at its core. Younger demographics tend to work, live, and relax in the same locality. They may work from home, coffee shops, or co-working facilities, finishing up their day in a bar with friends before heading back to their classy apartment. They feel a sense of community with people who work in the same place. Repurposing your retail assets with this in mind strongly aligns your business model to a rising growth curve. Our expert team possess a deep understanding of smart technology, both for smart buildings and for retail parks that run with converged technologies at their heart. We deeply understand how all of this fits in with your region’s smart city strategy and how to exploit it. ITVET are your experts when it comes to planning how to get the most out of your retail estate, based on your data metrics and growth aspirations.

Capitalise on an area of rapid market growth – Coworking

With more people working remotely, many people seek a place to work, maybe a coffee shop or high-tech co-working facilities. Diversifying your town centre space to cater to remote workers attracts a different demographic. This revitalises your area bringing sustainable growth as remote working surges in popularity.

High growth cities like Manchester see retail areas interspersed with trendy coworking facilities. These spaces inherently rely strongly on powerful and secure Wi-Fi connectivity, IT support and digital services. The COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed companies working remotely for the long term. Many people now seek coworking facilities that are closer to home. These trends have already impacted the UK’s housing market. Younger telecommuters naturally gravitate towards city hubs that accommodate their live work play ethos, but with clever planning, smaller towns can emulate this same trend. We can expect to see retail spaces repurposed as coworking and flexible office facilities to scale up demand. The number of coworking spaces is predicted to increase to 40,000 by 2024. With our retail spaces as the hub of communities, they will naturally draw in this newly mobile, flexible and affluent workforce.

Repurposing your retail space, to align with your customer behaviors derived directly from your own data is the answer for underperforming assets.

The sustainable impact of repurposing retail property

We all have a duty of care to our environment. Watching the news can make us feel powerless over it. Especially when we see global tragedies from floods to bush fires. But one thing we can control is how we use our “built environment”. Our construction sector is responsible for 36% of our total energy use and 39% of our carbon dioxide emissions.

So, rather than just building new retail outlets, we need to think outside the box to diversify the spaces we already possess. This is why repurposing retail space hugely impacts our environment. It doesn’t inflict the same terrible carbon footprint the construction industry does by building brand new spaces instead of regenerating existing ones. Logically, regeneration projects also conserve our natural resources.

Environmentally led gentrification attracts more profitable clientele

Take sustainability a step further. Traditional retail practices are being molded by environmentally conscious consumers voting with their money. They want to support companies that offer less plastic packaging, ethical fashion options, and sustainable products.

There is a high demand and little competition in the eco-conscious market segment

These ethically conscious consumers are some of your most profitable customers. This huge demographic of environmentally aware buyers search for zero-waste shops stocked with locally produced goods. Eco-friendly “refill” shops are highly sought after, but few and far between. For many the nearest options are over 50 miles away. This lengthy journey clearly negates any eco-friendly intentions.

Retail specialist Mary Portas writes: “we’re looking at a whole new generation … They’re not supporting businesses who don’t prioritise people or the planet.” We need to consider what your consumers really want from your retail estate. These customer-led decisions result in successful retail parks with balanced objectives that lay at the heart of mounting behavioral trends.

People who evaluate their purchases through a sustainable lens are typically willing to spend more to purchase in harmony with their values. Your retailers’ profit margins are therefore higher. Whilst ensuring your retail strategy is sustainable, you appeal to a more affluent and diverse demographic. The entire environmental movement is gaining pace and momentum. Moving away from dwindling retail markets at times seems painful but aligning your business strategy to rapidly rising trends only results in sustainable growth. Attracting eco-friendly retailers is just one example of how you can repurpose some of your estate.

The economic impact of diversification

Much loved British department stores have a long, interesting history. Once the most popular retail destination for shoppers, customer behaviour has changed over the years. Now is the perfect time to repurpose these large, empty department store spaces to meet evolving demand. Creative strategies to break down these void units into smaller, community-centred shopping experiences have been really successful.

Alternative Commercial Models Exploit Large Retail Spaces

Splitting up larger hard-to-fill spaces enables small businesses to trade side-by-side under one roof. This creates a relaxed, market-stall ambiance. This model lends itself to small traders, startups and pop-up shops, increasing your retail portfolio’s diversity. This gives small businesses a chance to set up with a light business model and less risk. Converting these large spaces makes them versatile and usable, ensuring better performance and increased profits.

Welcome back the makers and menders

This light, nimble model also underpins our environmental imperative to reduce, reuse and recycle. Smaller lets tend to attract handmade vendors, makers and tradespeople alike. These traditional skills might include people who recondition old appliances, seamstresses who alter clothes or furniture “upcyclers”.

The shop local movement delivers a personal buying experience

When local businesses thrive, local economies thrive. The shop local movement proves that modern consumers want to support their community. Customers enjoy the welcoming, face-to-face interaction of a traditional buying experience. Your small traders may offer more personal or homemade items customers can’t source elsewhere, and the convenience of shopping locally is a definite incentive.

The value of offering rental packages with speed, technology & versatility

Working with ITVET makes setting up smaller, flexible rental options much simpler. We provide all the digital services your tenants need to get started within one fixed and affordable monthly cost. Offering phone, internet, power and IT support services within one monthly price offers convenience. This means your tenants can move in quickly and start trading. They don’t need to set up lengthy contracts with lots of different providers. Your rental void has the potential to become the heart of your community, magnetically pulling in more customers…

Independent businesses are the backbone of our communities. At ITVET, we’re passionate about community. We use flexible technology solutions to make a real difference to the world around us with customers always in mind..

How ITVET Supports Shopping Centres & Retail Parks

Specialist retail IT support

We provide specialist IT support services for shopping centres. We provide the latest secure technologies, extensive support with our 24/7 UK-based service desk. With over 200 retail customers, we simplify any retail space repurposing project.

Retail data analytics software

All decisions on how to repurpose your retail space must be customer-led. We achieve this through behavioural analytics software. Collecting and storing your data is not enough, you need to be able to interpret it to guide your weightiest decisions. Our retail analytics software, Retail Report automatically collects and visibly shapes your data from any system or service. These data stream include sales, social media, car parks, public Wi-Fi, website statistics, and many more. This approach ensures that your retail assets are working hard. Gathering insights on how your spaces can be better used enables you to drive efficiencies. Drilling down on your analytics increases your yields as your decision-making becomes data-driven.

Occupancy Monitoring – Deeply understand your customers’ habits

Occupancy monitoring, reveals your customer’s whereabouts, frequency and visit duration in real-time. Sensors in doorways and on tables enable you to see how many people enter, and how they engage with your space. Are they sitting down to work for a few hours? Why not add more tables or hot drinks? Are they dwelling in a hot spot? Why not offer mobile catering options? Making big decisions based on your customer’s behavior drives better performance and more profit. When it comes to attracting those real crowd-pulling big retail names, your footfall and crowd patterns are what entices them.

Public Wi-Fi for retail parks and shopping centres

Fast public Wi-Fi is vital for your retail space because it draws more customers in. ITVET gives you full control of your public Wi-Fi. You stay in control of who sees what, when, and how. You benefit from great data capture, with authentication methods to suit your customers. This reliable service has guaranteed support levels and a fixed monthly cost.

Phone systems tailored to the retail sector

ITVET provides bespoke phone systems, tailored, and fully supported to your shopping centre’s requirements.

ITVET Project Example: The Colllective in Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury had two large shopping centres, one of which was closing down. Local press reported the uncertainty residents felt regarding economic loss as the retail centre closed. Clever planning underpinned by ITVET’s digital services changed this negative narrative to a success story. The shopping centre was converted into The Collective: 7 spaces for pop-up and market stall style retailers. All the retailers were local independent businesses.

Community-led shopping

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Assets, Economic Growth & Regeneration, described the vision of The Collective to: “evolve into more of a community-led shopping centre with regional and independent stores whilst retaining some popular national brands.” These small local businesses were invited to trade affordably in a public space. They could use this opportunity as a stepping stone to prove their business model works and grow. This project has a had lasting impact on Shrewsbury, which is always ITVET’s goal. ITVET supported the digital goals of the project, installing and maintaining the Wi-Fi network, phone systems and delivering specialist retail IT support. This enabled the stall tenants to move in without big setup charges or long contracts. Running their businesses in smaller nimbler spaces gives them true flexibility.

Now is the time to change the shape of retail environments to deliver customer-led authentic shopping experiences. Community-based centres, environmentally focused shopping and coworking facilities all represent lucrative opportunities to align your retail strategy with rapidly growing trends.

Request a free demo with our team of technology specialists to find out how we can drive your retail strategy.

Share on social