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Driving Us Crazy


Posted At: 15 July 2008 10:22 AM
Related Categories: Retail, Retail Property, Town & Shopping Centre Management


In the same way that more rats have been “spotted” since fortnightly bin collections were introduced, trips to out of town shopping centres are allegedly declining since petrol prices started rocketing.  It’s always much more newsworthy to hang your story on something that’s already making headlines.

Yes, petrol (and, even more so, diesel) is increasing in price at a disturbingly fast rate and yes, Jo Bloggs may well be giving serious consideration to whether her journey is necessary, but is this really impacting on out of town retail centres?  Isn’t it more to do with the fact that we have less time to ourselves and better ways to use it?  Being time-poor is a much surer way of focussing our minds to get what we need in the most economical way, than actually being cash-poor.

A more substantive point is that the FootFall figures over a number of years have shown no correlation with retail sales; so why are we getting so excited about a drop in pedestrian flow?  And is the drop of any major proportions, or just one in an ocean?  Despite John Lewis recording a decline in weekly sales figures at out of town stores, House of Fraser has reported sales in regional centres were up more than the rest of their estate.  Selective reporting of this information has focussed the attention on only one side of the story.

It should also be noted that commentators refer to “out of town” retailing but all the evidence is drawn from regional shopping centres.  Most out-of-town retailing is in relatively local retail parks.  These are not generally covered by Experian et al.  Referring to regional shopping centres as out-of-town is merely muddying the water and adding to confusion.

It seems highly dubious to be stating that people are abandoning their cars anyway – the school run is certainly still alive and well!  According to the RAC’s annual report on motoring (2008)*, stress and fuel prices are not yet pushing motorists off the road. Nine in 10 motorists say Britain remains a car dependent society (92%). Over half (51%) expect gridlock in the next 20 years, while 73% of motorists say they would find it very difficult to adjust their current lifestyles to being without a car.  Astonishingly, one in 10 drivers admit they now never walk anywhere!

So don’t abandon your plans to expand your store portfolio in out of town centres just yet!  FSP can help you see the light in this gloomy tunnel.


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The opinions expressed herein are the personal opinion of the author and are not intended as statements of fact and do not represent the view of SnapShop or Pragma in any way.


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