This award comes despite the most challenging conditions faced by the retail and leisure sector in 2020, with the Covid pandemic, the changing profile of Britain’s high streets and the growth in online shopping.
Throughout the year, the Retail & Leisure team worked hard to secure multiple sales, lettings and acquisitions for clients including Greggs, Principality Building Society, Burger King, Columbia Threadneedle and NewRiver, as well as advising or letting a number of units to locally based independent retailers .
The team also invested in new talent during 2020, with new graduate surveyor Ella Jefferies joining Retail & Leisure in October.
Director Huw Thomas provides his insight on the retail and leisure sector in Wales:
“We are delighted to have received this award for the second consecutive year. It’s a testament to the team’s hard work and dedication over the last 12 months in what, for society has been extremely challenging conditions from both a living, working and a retail and leisure perspective.
“Reflecting on 2020, to a large extent it was surprising given the various lockdowns we endured, that any activity took place at all. We were particularly pleased to have been able to secure eight new shop openings for Greggs and two new drive-thru’s for Burger King during this period, as well as securing a whole host of other lettings and acquisitions across a number of high streets, shopping centres and retail parks throughout many parts of Wales.
“As 2021 progresses and the anticipation hopefully, of some normality returning over the coming months, we are seeing interest returning from retailers and national restaurant operators. The latter are looking for fitted-out restaurants, and there is also interest from those wishing to create leisure uses in former and surplus retail accommodation.
“However, with internet sales having virtually doubled from circa 20% to nearly 40% of all retail sales in the last 12 months, this will inevitably increase vacancies across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks. Therefore, the challenges facing the Retail sector will continue.”
Ben Davies, Associate gives us his view on how the retail and leisure sector in Wales has fared:
“National retailer and restaurant demand fell away during 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Against this background, we actually witnessed growing interest from local and regional occupiers, resulting in a variety of transactions taking place.
“A few examples include local independent craft brewery and bar, Brew Monster which took a ten year lease in a prime location in Cardiff Bay close to Mermaid Quay during the first lockdown. They were absolutely determined to weather the storm and have their eyes on future expansion.
“Another was Welsh independent coffee house, Bradleys Coffee, which opened its sixth café in south Wales at St Elli Shopping Centre, Llanelli in February this year. They also have plans for another location. We also secured a letting to Love Brownies, a Yorkshire franchise business, which opened its first café in Wales in Penarth just before Christmas.
“It’s encouraging to see that in the face of the uncertainty impacting all aspects of life over the past year, local and regional operators have been capitalising on opportunities and demonstrating confidence in bolstering their businesses in a challenging market.
“This trend of local and regional occupier interest has continued into 2021, which should give heart to many of our local high streets. I anticipate that this will continue as people adjust to a hybrid model of working between home and office.
“Also encouraging has been the evident and growing co-operation between landlords and tenants who are increasingly trying to understand each other’s concerns. This has led to a strengthening of relationships which is key as we navigate through the rest of another tough year.”
Ryan Pratt, Associate Director would like to see businesses support local suppliers:
“In the majority of our high streets, shopping centres and to some extent retail parks, rents have been completely re-based in recent years, as have the level of business rates - although clearly they remain too high in many locations.
“One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic has been a strong resurgence in people shopping locally and supporting their local businesses. This is excellent to see and is a trend which I hope continues.
“Alongside supporting our local retail communities, our local businesses need to continue adapting to provide the services expected of them. The pandemic has highlighted that it’s all too easy to order from the internet, so the ‘experience-offer’ by retail and leisure needs to be a personal and engaging one, thus separating it from the rather sole-less online offer.
“We also need local planning authorities to continue to show flexibility on change of use applications where appropriate. This is something we’ve seen happen in England with the introduction of the Class E use, which will assist landlords and ensure that properties do not lie empty and are in beneficial use.”