Bidwells reports big success in High Street locations

Property specialists Bidwells’ most recent research document, ‘Our View On High Street Retail and Leisure’, reports that demand for larger retail units is good against a background of constrained supply.

High street retail space demand remains strong in the Bidwells region – 80% of the consultancy’s work is in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Oxford, Cambridge and London – with 1.5m sq ft of retailer and leisure requirements, although the majority are for units of more than 1,500 sq ft. Overall take-up across the Bidwells high street locations are at their highest levels since 2004 with The Westgate Centre in Oxford 70% let ahead of its October 2017 opening scheule.

Prime rents are expected to remain stable to 2018 with UK vacancy rates falling to 11.5% to the end of 2016.

However, while the availability rate has increased – rising to 10.6% across the Bidwells markets – the availability of prime retail units is down to its lowest proportion of supply since 2012/13.

Other points of interest include:

  • John Lewis opened its first store in Essex at Bond Street shopping centre in Chelmsford (pictured)
  • The opening of the new Chelmsford shopping centre and the increased targeting of high street space by food & leisure operators has pushed activity in Bidwells’ markets to the highest level in more than 10 years, 484,000 sq ft
  • The evolution of the Grafton Centre, Cambridge continues with the opening of a new restaurant and leisure quarter ‘Food Social’ scheduled for Q4 2017.

Meanwhile for out-of-town retail units take-up remains above trend despite low levels of availability, with demand for units in Cambridge at their highest level for nine years.

The majority of demand is being derived from untraditional occupiers, with bulky and DIY occupiers still restructuring their space requirements.

Generally, availability is down to 3.5% across all Bidwells out-of-town retail locations, with three seeing availability dip to 1% or below – Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich.

Prime rents remained stable in 2016 but are expected to grow by 2.5% per annum over the next three years.

Other points of interest include:

  • Leisure and food operators are continuing to increase their presence on retail parks as landlords are striving to increase dwell times at centres
  • Bounce has taken 50,000 sq ft of the former B&Q unit at Anglia Retail Park Ipswich
  • Wesfarmers have begun the rebranding of the Homebase units to their Bunnings brand with the first store opening in St Albans.

Says James Lankfer, head of retail and leisure of Bidwells: “The retail markets continue to perform strongly despite Brexit and now another general election. Availability is becoming constrained but demand continues to be high. This will result in a volatile market where we see prices/rents being pushed up.”

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