The last decade has seen considerable change in the retail sector. The appearance and function of the traditional high-street has changed. Coffee shops have replaced mobile phone shops, but shoppers are now as likely to browse online through their mobile phones than they are to browse through the aisle of a high-street store. That pace of change is likely to accelerate as some types of outlets specialise and others generalise, and the retail sector will have to continue to adapt to changing consumer preferences.
From a consumer’s perspective, the trend of shopping being something people choose to do rather than just do out of necessity, will drive retail operators and retail developers to invest more in their retail spaces to create better retail experiences. While technology and online portals can fulfill the purely functional need to shop, the retail experience of a bustling shopping centre or busy store will continue to offer something a screen cannot.
In response to the busier lives of consumers and ever-increasing demands on their time, convenience will be ever-more sought after. The evolution of the filling station into a mini-market, food outlet, coffee shop, meeting place, rest place and general one-stop-shop is a classic case in point. The store network expansion of discount retailers sees no sign of slowing, and this will continue to eat into the market share of the longer-established multiples.
The right type of retail, of the right size in the right place, will be a key design consideration for stand-alone and mixed use developments, and will continue to be guided by the retail planning guidelines and the findings of retail impact assessments as projects are guided through the planning process.