A week on the high street

7th September

September 7, 2021

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retail

Store visits in the UK rose in August to their highest level since the first lockdown. According to data from the British Retail Consortium and Sensormatic Solutions, total UK footfall rose 10 percentage points from July, reaching the highest reading since the beginning of the pandemic. Last month’s footfall was still down 18 per cent compared with the same month in 2019, however. Sensormatic retail consultant Andy Sumpter said that footfall in August was “bolstered by staycationer shopper traffic and the back-to-school boost.”. Rules on self-isolation and mask-wearing were also relaxed in England on the 16th of August.

Selfridges has opened a new permanent gaming outlet at its London flagship. The 200sq m Playhouse store, in partnership with Smartech, includes the latest games consoles, games and a ‘retro playground’ where visitors can play well-loved arcade games. The store will also host virtual reality experiences and a calendar of monthly events including coding lessons, gaming tournaments and PC-building workshops. The new installation follows reports that the global games market could surpass a total value of £100bn this month. Selfridges technology buying director Martyn Stroud said: “After a successful collaboration last year, we’re excited to introduce the Playhouse concept to a permanent destination in our technology department… offering customers more experiential elements and reasons to come and visit.”

Boots is to open its smaller format beauty hall concept in 30 stores. Boots stores such as Burton-on-Trent and Letterkenny will host smaller versions of the beauty halls located at 60 other locations across the UK and Ireland. The new beauty halls will feature consultation spaces and specialist beauty and skincare advice alongside leading beauty brands such as MAC and Fenty Beauty. Managing director Seb James said: While our online sales continue to grow, the in-store experience is still hugely important, which is why we have continued to invest in our new-look beauty halls throughout the pandemic and beyond… I am confident that our beautiful new beauty halls will help to drive more footfall into Boots as well as to local high streets more broadly.”

New Asda owners EG Group are planning to roll out their On The Move format. After a successful trial across five of their 400 UK forecourts, they plan to launch the format at approximately 300 petrol stations over the next few years. The Issa brothers’ group has also recently acquired healthy food-to-go chain Leon, a brand whose forecourt presence they also plan to grow.

Leisure

The number of diners eating out in London remains below pre-pandemic levels, due in part to a lack of tourists. According to data from booking website OpenTable, seated diner numbers in London are 8% below 2019 levels. Other regions have seen an increase in diner numbers, including Manchester which has seen a 38% increase on 2019 levels. UKHospitality’s Tony Sophoclides said London restaurants were particularly impacted by a sharp drop in tourism, hesitancy around using public transport and a slow return to office working.

Table service restrictions will be eased for Northern Ireland’s leisure industry on Friday. At pubs and bars, customers will be able to place orders and pay at the bar, but they must return to their table to drink if they are indoors. They will now be able to play darts, pool and gaming machines but must wear a mask when not seated indoors. Other restrictions to be eased include rules on booking tickets for indoor concerts and dancing in indoor settings for weddings and civil partnership celebrations.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has confirmed that COVID-19 vaccine certificates will be required for entry into nightclubs and other large indoor venues in England from the end of September. UKHospitality has cautioned that the scheme could be unworkable for operators and lead to job losses amid existing staff shortages. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Introducing a scheme such as this will be a hammer blow to businesses such as nightclubs that were closed by the Government for nearly 18 months, and have only recently been able to trade viably and make progress toward rebuilding and paying off accrued debts.”

Property

The growth of online shopping has driven demand for warehouse space across the UK, with nearly 15 million sq ft of ‘super sheds’ built last year. According to real estate advisor Altus Group, a total of 49 new distribution centres were built across the UK, which roughly corresponds with the amount of physical retail space lost due to Arcadia and Debenhams closures. The majority of these ‘super sheds’ were built in the East Midlands’ ‘Golden Triangle’. Altus Group UK president Robert Hayton said: “Online-only retailers now account for 17% of the occupier base of the 100 biggest super sheds. Surging demand has led to major investment opportunities, particularly for overseas investors, as the race for space continues to intensify…”

Orchard Street Investment Management has been granted planning permission by Leeds City Council to turn a former Debenhams store in Leeds into 124 student apartments. The Briggate site will also offer around 45,000sq ft of retail space on the basement, ground and first floors. Speaking in July, a report by Leeds City Council said: “It is considered that the proposal would result in a high quality, appropriate development. The scheme would bring active use to an important historic building and would add to the vibrancy and vitality to the area and furthering its regeneration.”

Openings and closures

London restaurant Chotto Matte is to open a second site in the city next year; Plant-based restaurant Mildreds is to open a new restaurant, Mallow, in Borough Market this autumn; Cinnamon Kitchen City is to host a six-week Nepalese pop-up at the restaurant starting this month; London Cocktail Club is to open a new site in the City of London by the end of the year; Chinese restaurant group Tattu is to open its first London site in the West End next year; Revamped restaurant and bar Booking Office 1869 is to open at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in Kings Cross next month; ‘Social fine dining’ concept The Water House Project has opened a permanent site near Regent’s Canal; Former pop-up Party Store Pizza has opened a permanent site in Bermondsey; The Casablanca Cocktail Club at Edinburgh’s House of Gods hotel is opening next week; Masterchef 2018 winner Kenny Tutt has opened his third restaurant, Bayside Social, on the Worthing seafront.
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