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  1. December 2020

  2. New era awaits ‘grab-and-go’ food across London’s office powerhouses

    2 December 2020
    The ‘grab-and-go’ food sector has been hard hit everywhere in London but particularly so across the Square Mile and at Canary Wharf. Trade in these locations is predominantly generated by office workers – more than 600,000 of them across the two centres – and without them there was little reason for operators to re-open even between the Lockdowns.
    The household names of the sector – Pret A Manger, Itsu, Leon, Wasabi, Caffè Nero etc – have all come under extreme corporate pressure and there has been a rash of CVAs and lease restructuring, which has led to a surge of stock coming to the market.

    At a time like this, it might seem odd to be talking about opportunity but there will clearly be a reset of the sector across these two lucrative locations and it makes sense to try and look beyond the current situation.

    There are opportunities for both landlords and occupiers. Landlords can have faith that the market will return in these office-based powerhouses. However, pragmatic and flexible solutions are required in the short-term to maintain some form of business continuity until the workers begin to come back in significant numbers.

    Rent reductions are a difficult pill to swallow for investors, but looking at a more turnover-based lease model can help ‘keep the lights on’ for existing occupiers while also encouraging new concepts who are waiting in the wings to take advantage of the new affordability of establishing outlets in the City.

    Reduced occupational costs will provide welcome relief for existing tenants. For new concepts, the market offers the opportunity to test locations that were once prohibitively expensive on a more cost-effective and risk-shared basis. And being able to take over space that was already configured and fitted out for ‘grab-and-go’ is also a significant plus for both landlord and a new occupier as it minimises start-up costs.

    The established operators listed above - and in particular Pret - have dominated the sector during the past 20 years. It’s time for them to be joined by a new generation of operators, and 2020 may prove to be the year when the success stories of the next two decades begin. 

    Yes, there will be an element of trial and error and not every new entrant will flourish. But for landlords it is a chance to perhaps lock-in to the ‘next big thing’ - whilst generating income and mitigating business rates liability in the short-term.

    With an effective Covid-19 vaccine looking like it could be available to the most vulnerable this side of Christmas, the prospect of office workers returning to these iconic locations is becoming progressively more possible.

    This will undoubtedly be a tough winter for society and business but by next Spring, we may once again start to see a return of hustle and bustle to the City and Canary as hungry workers seek out morning coffees and pastries and tasty lunches to take back to their desks. 
  3. July 2020

  4. A New Start for the Great British Pub

    23 July 2020
    The arrival of the Lockdown shuttered pubs for three months and it’s only now that they’re gradually re-opening. However, that is not to say they were all idle during that time. Hundreds in the capital with a good food offer reinvented themselves as takeaway and delivery hubs while others diversified even more.
    Groups like Urban Pubs & Bars which has London pubs including The Gatehouse in Highgate Village and The Whippet Inn in Kensal Green have offered fresh fruit and veg along with meat boxes and also the opportunity to purchase some of your favourite beer and wine to go.   It will be interesting to see where this diversification leads especially if there is a growing trend to localism – and what’s more local than your ‘local’?

    They’re already multi-faceted venues: places to grab a drink with friends, have a meal, watch live sport, or to showcase your general knowledge skills in the great pub quiz.  Pubs have long trading days and can explore how they can further utilise both this and the, often considerable, space that they occupy. There will be substantial demand for spaces where people can work without commuting into the office and you can see pubs in satellite locations around London having a role to play in meeting this demand. 

    For pubs to have a blended offer which encompassed retailing, food delivery, workspace, entertainment and not forgetting what’s on offer behind the bar could prove compelling and lucrative.

    The future of the Great British Pub certainly shouldn’t be judged by the rather ‘near beer’ version we’ll have for the immediate future. Yes, it’s great to be back in your favourite pub again, but social distancing constraints means that for the time being at least, we won’t be able to enjoy the same convivial interaction which sparks those memorable nights.

    But what is certain is that the British pub will survive and adapt. We’ve had them for nearly 2,000 years since the invading Romans opened their tabernae - or ‘taverns’ - which morphed into alehouses and on to the pubs we know today, and it will be fascinating to watch their next stage of evolution.

    Ross Kirton
    Director, Head of UK Leisure Agency
    Colliers International
  5. May 2020

  6. Shopping for victory?

    18 May 2020
    The commemoration of VE Day over the weekend highlighted both the efforts of the Allies during the Second World War and all those on the ‘Home Front’ who strove to support each other.
    Whilst it would inappropriate to directly compare the gravity of that situation with now, if we are going to mend the UK’s economy today then a lot of the challenge will have to be met domestically on our ‘Home Front’.

    For example, the shops of London’s West End have been heavily reliant on international tourist spend which accounted for more than 50% of total retail sales last year. The easing of lockdown restrictions will be gradual but if retailers are going to get some respite it will have to be in the form of domestic spending.

    Accordingly, London will need to look at how it can woo people back into the capital.

    Clearly, any measures cannot be antagonistic to the precautionary measures still in place to counter the pandemic. However, there will have to be something done proactively if shoppers – many of whom have become very comfortable with online retailing in the past two months – are to start repopulating our famous shopping streets.

    Some pundits believe that as the lockdown eases there will be a spike in ‘real life’ shopping as people enjoy greater freedoms of movement but this phenomenon is likely to be short-lived and tempered by the harsh realities of increased unemployment, wage cuts and poorer job security.

    Non-essential shops may be able to open as early as 1st June as part of the government’s new “road map” to reactivate the economy.  There will, however, still be challenges getting into the West End as we are discouraged from using public transport which must remain at 10% capacity to run safely.

    Both the Government and the London Mayor's office should therefore be looking at positive action to make it easier and cheaper to get into the capital (Accessibility); to provide some monetary incentives for shopping in town (Financial); and also allow retailers more flexibility to suit shopping hours to the new situation in which we find ourselves (Regulatory).

    We welcome pop-up bike lanes and the fast-tracking of e-scooter trials, but clearly the government will need to go much further with a raft of immediate and long-term initiatives.  Proposed measures could include:

    Accessibility

    - Legalise electric scooters and bikes – legalisation is needed as soon as possible to bring the UK in line with major EU countries such as France and Germany. New York has also recently legalised and plans to invest in new scooter lanes.

    - Cycle Lanes – major investment in “Smart Cycle Lanes” which have been pioneered in The Netherlands.

    - London Transport – once social distancing measures are eased, fares to be free of charge from Zone 6 into Central London after 10am.

    - Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street – this is an opportunity to look at the proposals again and re-engage with residents and major stakeholders to make this happen.

    Financial

    - VAT – 100% VAT exemption on in-store purchases to compete against the rise in online shopping habits during lockdown.

    Coupons – the Chinese government is using a voucher system to stimulate shopper spending. Vouchers can be redeemed if you spend a certain amount at a participating retail and leisure businesses for a limited period of time.

    Business Rates – a wholesale restructuring of the system must now be an absolute priority.

    Regulatory

    - Sunday Trading Laws - extend opening hours to encourage footfall whilst keeping it at manageable and safe levels.


    The road ahead is rocky but with creative policies and occupier resilience London can weather the storm and once again become one of the most exciting places to shop, eat and drink in the world.


    If you are an occupier of a retail property and would like to discuss lease strategy, please contact:
    Peter Flint - Co-Head of Brand Representation
    Central London – Retail Agency
    07870 999192
    peter.flint@colliers.com
  7. April 2020

  8. Investors target supermarkets as tills continue to ring

    20 April 2020
    The received wisdom at present is that UK property capital markets have pretty much gone into suspended animation in the face of the pandemic, but this certainly isn’t the case in the grocery-led sector.
    There are currently seven substantial supermarket transactions totalling around £205m which are either under offer or due to imminently complete. And these are not fire sales from struggling funds: the average net initial yield on the deals is a shade under 5%. This is in addition to the £325m of supermarket deals that we’d already seen transact in the year to date, and is accelerating the buying trends that we identified in our 2020 UK Grocery Report

    While the financial markets may remain unconvinced about the long-term prospects for the UK supermarket majors – Tesco’s share price is strangely down about 13% since the beginning of the year – real estate investors remain sweet on the sector. 

    Exceptional grocery trading, triggered by the extended isolation measures brought forward by the Government, will mean that the Big Four – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrisons – together with the likes of Waitrose, the Co-Op, Aldi and Lidl, are set to see strong 2020 revenues. In March, grocery sales of £10.8bn represented year-on-year growth of 20.6% – and reflected a level higher than the typical trading month before Christmas.  

    Despite pleas for us to keep our distance, the supermarket giants will be particularly pleased by the number of in-store visits. In the week ending March 21st, shoppers on average each made three additional shopping trips than usual, equating to 79m more trips, and an extra £1.9bn spent on groceries. Yes, online trading has also boomed but the harsh reality is that the majors don’t make money from home delivery owing to the high fulfilment costs and low margins that it entails. 

    So for the present, a nation which had taken to eating out on a regular basis during the past few years has returned to the family dinner table - or eating ready meals while bingeing on Netflix.

    Of course, the question is will we go back to our previous ways once we again have freedom of movement? Certainly the charms of home cooking or ready meals may have palled by then but even so, if we are in for tougher economic times, then the nation’s appetite for eating out is likely to be blunted by its ability to pay.

    However, the need to eat and the growth of ‘comfort eating’ in the face of the current grim situation is going to underpin supermarket performance for some time to come.

    For property investors looking for supermarket assets they are likely to be confronted – metaphorically speaking – by shelves every bit as bare as those which appeared nightly on our TV screens a couple of weeks back. The sector – with its long-leases, index-linked rents and strong  covenants – was already extremely popular with investors. Now the argument to buy grocery-backed assets – or indeed to hold onto them – is even more compelling.
  9. Landlords Need to Consider the Pandemic Legacy

    15 April 2020
    Once the Covid-19 pandemic has abated and the UK retail property market returns to some semblance of normality, the way in which landlords reacted to the crisis will be forensically assessed by retailers.
    The hard lessons learnt by both sides will reshape the landlord-tenant relationship and people will have long memories with regard to how all parties behaved when the chips were down.
    The response from landlords has so far been extremely varied and generally falls into four categories:

    LANDLORD ASSISTANCE DURING COVID-19

    No Support

    Limited Support

    Support

    Full Support

    Statutory Demands for non-payment of rent & Winding Up Petitions

    Monthly rents offered

     

    Deferment of rent to be repaid over an agreed period (typically 12 months)

     

    Reduced service charge payments

    1-3 month rent holiday

     

    No service charge payable

     

    Turnover only for next 3-6 months

    No rent payable until tenant is able to re-open

     

    >6 month rent free

     

    Rent deposit return to assist with re-opening costs and cashflow

     


    The package of measures the Chancellor has set out to get businesses through this period of disruption caused by the pandemic are well documented, but clearly the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and 12-month business rates holiday have given people some breathing space and chance of survival.

    Landlords have also started to offer bespoke assistance depending on the circumstances of their tenant.  Clearly if a retailer is able to continue to trade successfully though the crisis (e.g. food stores, pharmacies, newsagents) assistance is not required.  It is also true that some retailers are better equipped to survive than others if they have cash reserves or have the ability to continue to trade online more successfully than others.  All these factors should be taken into consideration during these negotiations.  We are seeing the more pro-active owners taking the opportunity to understand how their tenant’s business works by requesting detailed P&Ls and turnover projections to inform their response.

    However, the harsh reality for retailers which are unable to trade during the next few months is that even support from landlords may not be enough unless a broader approach is taken. The next Quarter Day on June 24th is assuming huge significance. If the levels of rent collection then are at the same level – or worse – than the March Quarter Day then landlords will have less and less room to manoeuvre.

    In this context, rather than provide piecemeal support, landlords may be well advised to explore the potential for a wider restructuring of leases. Restructuring could give retailers the required assistance they will need during the next 6-9 months and landlords would have a clearer view of the way forward for their asset. This could also give more reassurance to the providers of any debt secured against a property.

    Restructuring is also more of a process of give-and-take. If retailers are willing to remove upcoming break options or agree to lease extensions (if there is an imminent lease expiry), landlords may be able to more easily justify giving them the assistance they require and for their businesses to survive.

    This approach may be the only way to save fantastic retail and F&B businesses disappearing from our High Streets, whilst also maintaining landlords’ income streams and investment values.

    When we return to a more stable market, retailers are likely to have more choice available to them in terms of new store opportunities. Given these options, they will consider how landlords responded to the lockdown market and will be more likely to deal with those who proved themselves constructive and supportive. And, of course, landlords will also seek out the occupiers who took a similarly positive approach.

    The pandemic will undoubtedly bring structural change to our industry, but it will also bring an opportunity to re-balance the landlord & tenant relationship making it a more collaborative and open relationship.

    If you are an occupier of a retail property and would like to discuss lease strategy, please contact:
    Peter Flint - Co-Head of Brand Representation
    Central London – Retail Agency
    07870 999192
    peter.flint@colliers.com
  10. London and the 'New Normal'

    3 April 2020
    There is consensus that the current world situation will lead to a reshaping of the way we live globally and, of course, this extends to the way in which we’ll shop.
    Prior to the pandemic, it was thought that the UK’s propensity to shop online had plateaued with the web accounting for around a quarter of our total retailing spend. The picture was pretty much the same with food shopping with online accounting for around 7% of UK supermarkets’ total revenues. However, the new habits formed in the past few weeks and in the months to come may change those proportions.

    In a survey of more than 2,200 marketers conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week last week, 71% of UK marketers predicted that there will be an increase in ecommerce usage as a result of coronavirus. A substantial number people who were previously reluctant to shop online for whatever reason have been compelled to do so and will form habits that they do not relinquish in future.

    But if this is the general retailing landscape, what will the legacy of the pandemic be for London? Well, of course, the immediate impact has been profound as social distancing remains the key weapon in fighting the spread of Covid-19.

    However, looking further into a future when there will be respite from these measures, London will remain the ultimate experiential shopping city. Its blend of high fashion, street style, heritage and innovation is unmatched in the world and that will not change. The challenges in the medium-term will be around who is able to come and shop in London. It has for decades been a focal point for international tourism and, in that context, a resumption in global air travel will be key to bringing shoppers back.

    Whilst London’s high-end, luxury retailing streets will retain their cachet and attraction, the shops serving the middle-market will have to redouble their efforts – especially if the impact of the pandemic on the economy means more muted consumer spending. In order to woo shoppers, brands will need to use all their ingenuity to revamp their offer at accessible price points.

    The pandemic is also changing the way we think about our lives and the world we live in. as we head towards the ‘new normal’, the rise of ethical, socially responsible brands will accelerate, and London will have to explore how it can meet people’s hunger for experiences and excitement as millions come out of self-isolation.

    Author:
    Matthew Thompson
    Matthew.Thompson@colliers.com
    +44 20 7344 6817
  11. Up Close With Watch House

    3 April 2020
    Whilst at university, Roland Horne started a business which designed and installed high-end aquariums. Then a passing conversation with a friend eventually led him to founding Watch House – one of the most distinctive café brands across London.
    So Roland, from fish tanks to pulling flat whites, how did that happen?

    I’d been running the aquarium business for about five years straight out of uni when a friend asked me to go into a joint venture with him to open a coffee shop concept. I was going to finance it, and he was going to run it.  In the end he had to pull out. I thought: “Let’s just go for it” and found a great little space on Bermondsey Street, London Bridge: £6k a year rent, no business rates, five-year lease, Council landlord. So the worst case scenario if it all failed was that I’d be down £30k if I had to close the door and wait for the lease to run out.

    The first Watch House opened in September 2014 and it flew; it went really, really well.

    What was the secret of its success?

    Providing excellent coffee and food in a space that you really actually wanted to be in seemed obvious to me but nobody really did it. At that time, there were the big coffee chains where the product was OK and the service was generally good but they weren’t exactly inspiring places to be in. I felt there had to be a better way. 

    And then you took a year off?

    (Laughs) Yes, well I’d gone straight from uni into setting up my first business and never had that break. So my partner and I took our sabbatical travelling through many coffee plantations and when I came back in 2016 I realised that the scalability of A1 coffee/F&B was very appealing to me compared to the aquarium world. Whilst the profits were great - the value of the aquarium business was always going to be in the people rather than the product. So I sold my shares and we opened the second Watch House near Tower Bridge which also flew from the off. 

    You must’ve thought: ‘Wow, this is easy!’

    I did but I soon came back down to earth. We were lucky on the first two sites, and when we opened a third store on Fetter Lane in Holborn, got an alcohol licence and tried to do all-day dining but that really didn’t work in that location. I’d forgotten to ask myself the key question: ‘As a customer, would I go to this place!?’. If I had, I would have said ‘no’ – it was too confusing. It launched and made a small profit, but it wasn’t Watch House and it certainly wasn’t me. 

    So in the end we closed it for two weeks in 2018, completely revamped the concept and interiors including changed seating and we got rid of the alcohol.  We focused on what we were good at: a best-in-class daytime café operator with great coffee and food and it began to really perform. It was an interesting lesson and today the site is our busiest coffee site.

    You seem to have picked up the pace of openings since then?

    Yes, we were trading really well at our first Tower Bridge cafe when Columbia Threadneedle, the developer of the nearby Courage Yard scheme, offered us a very large site on great terms, and that has gone from strength to strength.

    Last year we opened in Spitalfields, and about the same time sold an equity stake in the business to our venture capital partners Edition Capital. This ultimately enabled us to acquire the Fernandez & Wells sites which had four outlets that are now changing to Watch Houses. Since then we have completed our Series B funding round and we are really kicking on. 

    So after Boris Johnson addressed the nation on March 16th did the sky fall in?

    It was a shock for sure, but we quickly saw the benefits. We were due to open our own roastery on April 1st  which would have taken us to nine sites, but obviously that had to be postponed. And of course things got very serious when we chose to close all our outlets which we did relatively early on.  But the furlough support for businesses has been a real game changer. With 80% of staff salaries paid by the Government, we can cover the shortfall and keep the business ready to move forward again. In addition, we also launched our Project Pool scheme which saw salaried members of staff sacrifice 25% of their income to subsidise the hourly members of staff. This has resulted in 100% staff retention during this period. I was really proud of the team for this. 

    You sound pretty optimistic?

    Well, we’ve clearly all got a long way to go before the world looks even remotely normal again but yes I have a bullish outlook compared to most. We’ve always wanted to grow the brand but only in a sustainable and quality driven way. No one likes brand rollouts - largely because a lot have been done so poorly over the years. But there’s nothing wrong with having a multi-site operation as long as that operation is always about quality. Watch House is in a really excellent position to springboard out of this period so we are excited in some ways and can see the opportunities already starting to become apparent. 

    And how do you achieve that?

    It’s about authenticity. Keeping faithful to where you started and continuing to guarantee quality and excellent customer experience. Bringing your staff into that culture is really the key. Too many places just throw you an apron and tell you to serve someone. 
    There’s a chain in New York called Blue Bottle who are, in my view, the gold standard in terms of culture and having staff who understand what and why they’re serving. I went to what must have been 10 of their outlets one summer and there were all uniformly excellent. I later discovered that when you join Blue Bottle as a server you have a full five-day immersion course into the business - completely ‘off the tools’ - and their ethos before they let you anywhere near a customer. It was inspiring to me and we strive to better their approach. 

    There’s always going to be a clear connection between that sort of commitment and the quality of your offer.
  12. March 2020

  13. Minister for Electrification?

    4 March 2020
    It now seems a long time ago since driving an expensive 4x4 – or ‘Chelsea tractor’ – around London was seen as a status symbol. Today, the emphasis in urban areas is – quite rightly - on sustainability and the environment. The issue of London’s air quality is now high on the political agenda and will no doubt figure prominently in the run-up to May’s mayoral election.

    In that context, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement regarding the ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars being brought forward from 2040 to 2035 should have been welcomed.

    However, this may be a case of hitting the accelerator at the wrong time. Most vehicle manufacturers are now starting to produce electric cars on a mass scale and the sector is clearly adapting. But while the Government’s plans are welcome in terms of their commitment, the e-vehicle market is still in its infancy and the government should, in the first instance, be concentrating on a clear and cohesive strategy for nationwide charging infrastructure roll-out, or even appointing a ‘Minister for Electrification’, such is the important of this to the environment, UK vehicle manufacturers and the motor retailing sector. 

     A combined undersupply of charging points both at home and ‘on the move’ together with apprehension over lengthy charging times is currently contributing to a lack of buyer confidence and ‘range anxiety’. Meanwhile, concerns over the ability of the current UK energy supply to meet future demand and the lack of guidance for landlords and developers for integrating charging points in to commercial premises is causing misperceptions. 

    Charging a vehicle at your home is fine if you have off-street parking, but most central London residents don’t.  Some London Boroughs are selectively placing charging points in lamp posts. This is a great initiative, but what happens when every vehicle is electric? We already see cables stretched for 20 metres along the pavement which is a safety risk and open to vandalism.

    There needs to be more consistency in terms of the approach to the infrastructure. At the moment it seems a ‘free for all’ approach has been adopted, so anyone with an electrical vehicle who arrives at a charging point does not even know what type of charge they are going to receive, and whether it will even work. And, as charging times improve, the need for higher levels of electricity is also required, but some locations are not able to provide the required capacities.

    Further infrastructure needs to be created, particularly at existing petrol filling stations and arterial route locations. Filling a vehicle with petrol or diesel takes a matter of minutes, but even e-vehicle superchargers take significantly longer. 

    The addition of charging points at filling stations in town and city car parks, shopping centres, retail parks, supermarkets and new public ‘charging parks’ represents both a challenge and an opportunity for landlords and developers.

    But whilst it’s good that Prime Minister Johnson is attuned to society’s desire for a better environment, he first needs to show support for the required infrastructure.  If the mass migration of drivers to e-vehicles is going to be a realistic and achievable goal, the UK Government needs to fully support both the property and automotive retailing sectors, including petrol retailers, - rather than simply bringing a deadline five years forward.

    Author:
    John Roberts
    john.roberts@colliers.com
    +44 121 265 7553
  14. February 2020

  15. eSports: from sofa to shopping centre?

    25 February 2020
    eSports: from sofa to shopping centre?

    The stereotype image of the video gamer is someone rooted to a sofa while a TV flickers in a darkened living room or they’re up in their bedroom gazing fixedly at a PC screen while jabbing at mouse and keyboard.

    However, it seems that video gaming is moving from solitary pastime to spectator sport with the emergence of ‘eSports’– and this is could be good news for property landlords.

    Last year, the eSports market grew to $1.1bn. That was year-on-year growth of about 26% and the sector is forecast to jump up to around $2.3bn within three years according to Forbes. Growth is also being fuelled by the competitive nature of gaming: in 2019, Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite offered prize money of more than $100m for competitive tournaments.

    And like mainstream sports, the best players of these games are also attracting an audience. First, this was through online platforms like YouTube and Twitch but now it’s moving to physical spaces ‘game arenas’ where you pay to watch and learn from the best players who are often competing as part of corporate sponsored teams.

    And, like regular sports, if you prefer to play rather than watch there are smaller centres. In London this trend has seen the expansion of the Belong Gaming Arenas introduced by the retailer, Game, to sit alongside their traditional retail stores, and for Wanyoo to acquire their first UK gaming café on Charing Cross Road. Wanyoo is Asia’s largest gaming café chain with 1,000-plus cafes in more than 50 cities.

    Revenue streams are driven by playing fees – typically £5-7 an hour – or the cost of admission if you’re watching your gaming heroes in arenas such as Gfinity eSports arena in Fulham Broadway. And, of course, there’s lots of scope for adding on food and drink offers.

    On average, Wanyoo’s gamers stay in venues for 3-5 hours. While audience dwell times are shorter, the game developers are looking at how they can embed advertising in the same way that you have hoardings around a pitch in a televised football game with companies such as Bidstack bridging the gap between game developers and advertisers.

    And the cross-fertilisation of the digital and real worlds doesn’t stop there: celebrities like Michael Jordan, Drake and Gareth Bale have made substantial investments into the eSports sector.

    The good news for landlords is that these eSport centres don’t have any particular property requirements other than size; they have taken units on high street locations and shopping centres, and are not too precious about ground, first floor and basement spaces!

    The global eSports audience is now estimated to be around 450m people and, of course, many of the gamers who cut their teeth on Counter Strike, Quake and SuperMario more than 20 years ago are still playing today so the sector has a strong demographic profile.

    And, if you’re not sure that eSports are here to stay then consider this: they’re under consideration for inclusion at forthcoming Olympic Games.


    The Author
  16. November 2019

  17. Sustainability requires collaboration

    14 November 2019
    The recent Extinction Rebellion protests and the debate around the sustainability of ‘fast fashion’ have put a growing numbers of retailers in the firing line for social activists.

    H&M has a long track record of integrating ethics into its business notably with its ‘Conscious Collection’ line of clothing and also through its sustainable supply chain strategy. But during London Fashion Week one of its stores in the capital was the venue for a ‘Boycott Fashion’ protest.

    The irony - and perhaps inappropriateness - of this was further emphasised shortly afterwards when H&M announced the launch of a new clothing rental service aimed at making premium items available at an affordable price and extending the use and lifecycle of garments.

    H&M isn’t the first retailer to announce this sort of initiative - Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters, Scotch and Soda and Ann Taylor Loft have all launched subscription rental services this year -  but the negativity that the company is facing from the anti-fashion lobby has left its CEO, Karl-Johan Persson, exasperated. In an interview with Bloomberg, he warned that curtailing fashion retailing “may lead to a small environmental impact, but it will have terrible social consequences”. Perhaps not surprisingly, this only enraged his opponents further.

    Britons buy more clothing than any other European country, and its estimated that £2.7bn is spent fashion that they only wear once so it’s not surprising that retailing is increasingly under scrutiny. And, of course, property has a similar challenge: the built environment is responsible for almost half of all carbon emissions in the UK.

    So where property and retailing come together in the form shops it’s clear that we can make a difference in terms of how those spaces are created and operated. In London, major landlords such as Grosvenor, Shaftesbury and The Crown Estate are leading the way in this respect and retailers are responding to their lead.

    In this context, it’s perhaps not surprising that streetwear brand Napapijri felt that Shaftesbury’s Carnaby Street was the right setting for its first London store. The brand recently launched ‘Infinity’: a 100% recyclable jacket that’s been made using recycled fishing nets and which you can ‘trade in’ after two years of use.

    Given changing attitudes in society there is tremendous opportunities for retail and property to collaborate on sustainable responses to what shoppers demand. Hopefully, this week’s MAPIC retail property exhibition will generate many ideas which can support this process.


    The Author
    Paul Souber - Colliers London
    Paul Souber
    Head of Retail Agency - London

    020 7344 6870

    paul.souber@colliers.com

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