According to sector analysts, West Midlands consumers are starting to return to in-store shopping as their purchasing habits evolve.
Meeting in Birmingham, representatives from BDO, Lambert Smith Hampton and the Mailbox, discuss retail sector trends and what impact it is having on the city. The main point discussed was a landmark year the Midlands’ retail sector achieved.
It was concluded that the contributing factors to its success were the major renovations to the Mailbox and new Grand Central shopping centre, which exemplified the returning importance of bricks and mortar stores to consumers.
Head of retail and wholesale at BDO UK, Sophie Michael, commented: “The way that people shop continues to change at a rapid pace. While there is no doubt that online retail has become key to how consumers purchase goods, the growth of online has given the store an evolving role for the convenient collection of online orders and increasingly as a beacon of inspiration.”
She highlights that the particular focus is to the retailers that find online shopping cannot match the experience of in store purchasing, where you are able to experience the product before buying. Recent figures from the British Retail Consortium support this, which suggest that footfall at West Midlands retail stores is on the up.
Lambert Smith Hampton’s Head of Midlands retail, Richard Jones, added there is “Definite evidence of a fight back in the West Midlands market.”
He continues: “Vacancy rates have fallen from 15.4% in January 2015 to 9.4% in January 2016 a decline of 6% and, at LSH, we’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in take-up regionally in the last 18 months, suggesting that confidence is really starting to grow among retailers.”
Footfall in retail parks and on the high street are on the increase, with the latter seeing its first rise since July 2013.
Despite a positive find, analysts are still expecting challenges for the sector, such as the National Living Wage and EU referendum.
However, Retail Manager at the Mailbox, David Pardoe, remains positive, saying that Birmingham is the only city outside London which has all five major UK department stores; Debenhams, John Lewis, Selfridges, House of Fraser and Harvey Nicholls, as well as offering a true leisure experience.
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