Construction group produces report on the importance of shopping

National and local policy makers need to work together to effectively harness the regenerative power of the retail sector, according to a new report from Mace.

The report, called Retail for Regeneration, argues the sector has a vital role to play in helping the government deliver its Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine agendas, as well as in making a success of HS2.

Mace’s report also argues the construction industry must get up to speed with the changing face of retail, including the growing importance of leisure uses in retail projects and the rise of online shopping.

At a panel discussion held in London to launch the research, Robin Dobson, director of retail development at Hammerson, said retail projects sparked a “halo” effect in towns and cities, spurring wider investment. He added: “Retail creates confidence for others to invest.”

Sue Brown, executive director at business lobby group London First, argued that the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, had been “fundamental to changing perceptions of the area”.

Mace’s report says one in every four pounds in UK retail will be spent online within five years, up from 15% today.

But Hammerson’s Dobson said physical stores would still be an important part of the picture, as stores became more like “showrooms”. “Physical retail destinations are hard-wired ot online,” he said.

Dobson said leisure uses were increasingly important at shopping centres and the questions for developers was now: “How do we create destinations and experiences for consumers?”

The big question in retail is the potential impact of Brexit. The government has committed itself to delivering an industrial strategy for the UK and the report argues retail must be at “the heart of this plan” due to the important role it plays in the economy - for instance some 12 million French and German shoppers bought goods online from the UK in 2015.