Now the UK starts to transition out of lockdown, the retail, leisure and restaurant market is inevitably in a very different place as operators look at ways in which they can adapt to the ‘new normal’. Some operators are geared up to implement change and modify their businesses to work around the government measures of social distancing, for others, these measures may be harder to execute leaving them in a more challenging position.
The immediate impact that COVID-19 has had on the market has resulted in a number of occupiers going into administration and the market is anticipating many more announcements in the coming few months. For some of the larger businesses, this gives them the opportunity to close stores and streamline their property portfolio by re-opening fewer sites once lockdown restrictions are lifted. There are of course some operators who are rationalising their portfolio by utilising breaks and expiries to reduce store exposure. Subsequently, this will leave many landlords with rental voids and vacant units.
As agents, we recognise the importance of keeping our ears to the ground and the need to be proactive in our approach to search out the ‘next best’ exciting and emerging operators. Even before COVID-19 I was continually contacting independent operators to understand their appetite for expansion, but now this task is more vital than ever as the number of voids increase and consumer preference has been steered towards independent or boutique stores due to the more personalised retail experience.
In order to seek out the next “Breakthrough Brands”, the young independent brands or the online businesses who will form the pool of talent for the tenants of the future, we have utilised a number of approaches to develop our database which now holds approximately 800 retailers, restaurants and leisure operators. However, it’s fair to say we have found social media and in particular Instagram to be highly successful in securing a route to speaking directly with new perspective tenants who are passionate and proactive about their brands. The owners are often the respondents to their Instagram enquiries, so are generally only too happy to chat. Many highly successful brands started online before taking stores, Allbirds, Made, and Glossier to name a few were all online before they took bricks and mortar sites and with the growth of the powerful generation Z consumer, the need for a 360 omnipresence’s should not be overlooked.
Another successful route to finding new tenants has been our ‘door stepping’ approach, the old- fashioned process of visiting new emerging areas of London and beyond, knocking on the door and asking for the contact details of the owners. This tends to be as equally successful as our social media approach, as often the owners are in store and love to engage with someone who is genuinely interested in how their brand is developing.
As a business, we have invested a considerable amount of time and energy into developing these unique relationships and we are sure this will put us into good stead for helping our clients to secure tenants on both a short and long terms basis, which will help us create a point of difference and a unique reason to visit our shopping destinations.