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    Need to ‘reinvent’ shops is biggest concern among local leaders

    (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    Up to 40 per cent of shops must be repurposed in next five years or “wither on the vine” as demand for physical retail wanes, local leaders have claimed.

    In a recent survey trade body Revo and the consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), need to repurpose retail space was named as the biggest concern for local authorities, landlords, developers and other town centre management professionals.

    While 61 per cent of those surveyed believed that between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of retail space needs to be reinvented in the next five years for leisure, hospitality, health or civic use, 12 per cent of those surveyed claim even more space than that will need to be repurposed, states the survey findings.

    “There is a danger that if our towns don’t transform then some will wither on the vine before the decade is out,” The Guardian quoted Vivienne King, the chief executive of Revo, as saying.

    Steve Norris, head of regeneration and planning at LSH, said that this shows the scale of the challenge town centres are facing and the “radical surgery” required.

    Norris, however, added that it was not “all doom and gloom for town centres” as “we are entering into one of the most exciting and creative periods in their long history as it is not just about retail any more. It could be a town centre renaissance”.

    Green space and more attractive spaces where local people can spend time – without feeling the need to spend money – were also seen as an important part of reviving places that have been affected from a series of impacts- rise of online shopping, the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

    According to analysts at the Local Data Company, redevelopment reached a new high, with 10,739 units repurposed in 2022, compared with 9,139 in 2021 and 7,307 in 2019 before the pandemic. About 15 per cent of UK retail sites lay vacant last year.

    LDC also pointed out that a fifth of Debenhams stores, which were closed in 2021 after the department store went into administration, have been repurposed while almost half – 48.5 per cent – remain empty.

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