As French Connection plunges into the red and Next's high street outlets are expected to follow (saved only by catalogue and internet sales), fashion retailers on the high street are scrabbling for market share in a zero growth environment.
Meanwhile Primark, which is about to move into the department store in Western Road previously occupied by C&A and Littlewoods, has reported nil growth in like-for-like sales. Analysts are also predicting that Dorothy Perkins and BHS will report depressed sales.
Sales in high street fashion are forecast to grow at 2% this year but the retail consultancy Verdict is predicting only an average 0.1% growth over the next 5 years. Also retail overheads are growing at 4% per annum due to higher rents, the minimum wage and soaring utility bills. The continuing threat from the internet is also putting pressure of bricks and mortar outlets and interest rates are widely predicted to increase next month as inflation tops 2.5%.
Only John Lewis bucked the trend with a whopping 25% increase in turnover and even here the internet has overtaken its flagship Oxford Street store as its largest single source of income.
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It seems compelling to conclude that in a market with so little growth potential one company’s growth will be at the expense of another’s decline and it is no wonder that a clutch of high street stores have closed their doors in recent months.
In this sort of climate, and with these predictions for the future, developers of retail property look dangerously exposed especially with plans for an extra 30 million sq feet (that’s the same as 15 Bluewaters) of new shopping centre space in the pipeline over the next five years.
How is this scenario likely to affect Brighton & Hove’s Churchill Square shopping centre, which has plans to expand as part of the redevelopment of the Brighton Centre? It has a number of advantages; - the proposals are to expand an existing mall with a proven track record of success and it is in a city with over 400 well-known fascias clamouring for suitable space which we just don’t have at the moment. Also population growth should compensate for a ot of the downside. The GVA Grimley retail study (see earlier stories in the knowledgebase) has forecast that Brighton has the potential to more than double its retail turnover in the next 10 years.
Meanwhile the newly formed Business Improvement District (BID) should play a major role in helping Brighton’s all important independent sector to thrive.
In a difficult market place, Brighton has the right ingredients for success but other locations may not be so lucky.
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