Retail has never been a sector for the fainthearted. For construction firms, it means slashing your prices so your client can keep slashing theirs, working round the clock, and around milling customers with absolutely no impact on sales, or pulling off a flawless finish against an immovable deadline.
But it’s just got tougher. The biggest names have seized upon the PR possibilities of the sustainability agenda and run with it at remarkable speed. In just a couple of years, price and quality as requirements to win work have been joined by a third must-have a supplier’s eco credentials. You can read about what four of the leading supermarkets want from you in our 'Well stocked for greens' article, and then in 'There’s life in the old girl yet …' we take a closer look at one of the most advanced retail projects Marks & Spencer’s striking refurbishment of an ageing high street store in Bournemouth.
It’s not just their high street branches that retailers are changing though they know their distribution networks have got to live up to their eco-pledges to ward off accusations of greenwash. Sheds may not immediately strike you as green buildings, but take a look at 'Dawn of the shed' for some developments that may change the way you see those cavernous industrial monsters.
Consumers may not have as much money to spend, but there’s no doubt Britain remains a nation of shoppers. Witness the stampedes that greeted Kate Moss’ collection for Top Shop, Boots’ anti-ageing serum or the opening of a new Primark anywhere. That’s the kind of response that the UK’s retail developers will be hoping for as 120 new centres come on-stream over the next five years an undeniably strong development pipeline.
Retail accounts for 8% of new-build construction activity, according to Cyril Sweett, but that could be as much as 15% if you count all the retail space in the mixed-use schemes planners are demanding. They’re also putting pressure on developers to take move back onto tricky town centre sites from the outskirts, and they’re rising to the challenge. The latest crop of shopping centres are ambitious, multi-use developments, with lofty regeneration aspirations to boot, as we discover in 'A cast of thousands'. It also throws down challenges for the construction industry for example, on Grosvenor’s £900m Liverpool One scheme, there were 24 different architects.
But spare a thought for those firms working out in the Middle East, where cash-rich, taste-poor clients have taken the art of shopping to a whole new level. You can also find some hints of where British shopping might be going in this most unlikely of quarters. Indoor ski slopes might sound worlds away from the UK scene, but quite a lot of what our man on the ground says in 'Checkout' sounds strangely familiar …
Katie Puckett, editor