Independent retailers offer answer to high street revival

START-UP businesses and independent retailers could be the answer to the revival of the high street, according to a Yorkshire retail expert.

Peter Heron heads up the retail agency department in the Leeds office of Sanderson Weatherall and said the property firm is getting lots of enquiries from independent retailers looking to set up in city/town centre locations.

“We are starting to get far more enquiries from start-up retailers and are seeing them crop up in lots of places. It is early days for a lot of these people but this, to a point, is a way of reviving the high street. Retail is a hard business but at least these people are getting the chance to try it and it is encouraging that people are being allowed to have a go and the more this happens, the better.”

Heron said that he believes the high street is seeing almost a complete cycle back to the early days of retail with the growing popularity of pop-up shops, or temporary lettings, in prime retail locations. He described these as being like a market stall, but in the town or city centre and in a shop.

Heron highlighted the Boxpark scheme in Shoreditch – which is constructed of stripped and refitted shipping containers, creating unique, low cost, low risk pop-up stores – as a unique idea to help with this high street revival.

“There is no reason this can’t be done almost anywhere if there is demand, you can get planning permission and you can find a site.  It is a great opportunity for new business and those which are starting to expand a little bit. I can see this happening in Leeds but you have to find the space.

“It is an excellent way for people to start up and great for new entrepreneurs.”
Heron said Sanderson Weatherall has recently completed a short-term let to Candy Avenue, in York. The business imports sweets from the US.

“This is an example of a new name coming out and I hope we will see more new names on the high street,” he said.

“We are seeing far more enquiries from independents. It is still not easy to get the right properties for them but it is a lot easier than it was. Probably only one in four will make it, but at least they have tried and that is important.”

Peter Heron Heron said he is also seeing online businesses finding a need for a bricks and mortar space – helping to fill up empty high street space.

“People setting up online businesses has been happening for years, but now, a lot of them are starting to look at the high street a bit more,” he said.

“There are issues with just having online – collection, delivery etc. And there are certain products people want to see before they buy.

“In the same way people have got really successful multi-channel businesses, it can work the other way, too. Businesses won’t launch 500 shops but perhaps one or two – it would depend on the product.

“I am absolutely convinced that we will see new businesses going from strength to strength and the more of these independents coming forward, the better.

“I think there will always be the need for bricks and mortar and the high street is certainly not dead.”

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