coombes:everitt News Reimagining our retail space

Reimagining our retail space

May 12, 2023

Promenade shot

Director, Toby Coombes looks at changing retail trends and how redundant retail space can be maximised to the benefit of landlord, tenant and the wider town centre environment.

Changing retail trends post-pandemic have seen many retailers leaving town centres and focusing on their online offering or moving moving to smaller units with more flexible space and lower rental costs.

In our own town of Cheltenham, the historic Promenade has seen many units standing empty and leaving a gap along this previously vibrant and exclusive shopping area.
It is easy to talk of the ‘death of the high street’ and the associated decline in occupancy. But is that necessarily a bad thing? In reality, it is an evolution of consumer tastes and behaviours, and our high street must evolve alongside it.

Retailers don’t need the space that they once did and we are seeing a trend for smaller units to complement their online offering, along with conversion of upper floors to office or residential use. This diversification serves to both counter the drop in rents by improving income on what are primarily redundant or storage spaces on the upper floors and serves a community need by providing much needed residential space in locations to drive footfall into the town centres.

We are working with a number of different landlords and helping them to look at their buildings through new eyes and ask whether there’s potential for different purposes or design and use of the space. This can generate new rental income and put money back into the maintenance pot.

A property owner client of ours has been particularly proactive in revaluating their property on Cheltenham’s Promenade and we have been advising them on how to best maximise the space and bring life back to the area, as well as providing much needed accommodation for local people. We have been working with them to redevelop the former Gap store and providing a perfect space for gardening retailer, Dobbies to bring their new ‘Little Dobbies’ offering to towns and city centres.

We have sub-divided the neighbouring unit, which was previously occupied by clothing brand, Superdry – to better suit the changing retail model of smaller more compact units.
The Dobbies store is set to open later this month and planning has been submitted to Cheltenham Borough Council for works to the former Superdry unit. There is then a second planning application to convert the redundant upper floors of the 3 retail spaces into residential space providing 19 new apartments in a sustainable town centre location.

For more information or to discuss how you can maximise your commercial space, contact me: t-coombes@ce-architects.co.uk