Retail opinion: Could more temporary lettings help the state of the UK High Street?

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IN MANY town centres the number of empty shops is at an all time high, with this number likely to increase imminently by a further 350+ following the administration of Clinton Cards. In this case, the good news is that over 4,000 jobs have been saved following the purchase of around 400 stores by US firm American Greetings. The remaining 300 stores have either closed already or will close shortly. So what is the outlook for these stores and others like it?

Local retail expert Peter Short says temporary lettings can offer the opportunity to fill vacant outlets and ease the burden of costs associated with empty units.

“When a lease is still with an administrator, the options open to a landlord are often more complicated due to the ongoing liabilities and empty rates payments. However, the opportunity to reopen the store quickly, by way of a short-term lease, can be appealing to landlords. Once full legal possession is back with the landlord, and any empty rates benefits are taken into account, the decision to look at a short-term lease becomes a lot more straightforward.

Apart from the clear benefits for the landlords of rental income at the earliest opportunity, a short-term let can allow the flexibility to seek a more permanent tenant at the same time. There is a possibility that a short-term tenant will become a longer term tenant if the unit trades well and, particularly in shopping centres, it has the benefit to other traders by maintaining or improving footfall and customer numbers.

From a retailer’s perspective, the key opportunity generated through short-term lets is that the viability of a particular store can be established without the costs associated with a long-term lease and an expensive fit-out. However, retailers can view short-term lets in a number of additional ways other than assessing its longer term viability.

Pop-up retail, also known as pop-up shops or flash retailing, is a trend of opening short-term sales spaces. Companies such as Calendar Club use this concept to take up sites purely from October to January each year, either in mall space within shopping centres or vacant shops, to benefit from the higher Christmas trade. They may take up to 300 sites annually.

Other national retailers see temporary lets as an opportunity to sell excess stock or to trial certain product lines or, like Calendar Club, to benefit from seasonal highs relevant to the trade.

At a time when towns and city centres are faced with an increasing number of vacant units, temporary lettings provide a relatively quick and straightforward mechanism to increase occupancy. It is not the only answer to the big question of the future of the high street in the UK but it can help.”

Innes England has active requirements for short term lettings of well fitted units throughout the UK.