As the world starts to recover, the impact of the pandemic on the High Street is all too obvious. With furlough ending, and without further business support, the extreme pressure placed on retailers will lead inevitably to more store closures.

Since the exponential growth of internet retail over the last decade, the High Street has been on a downwards trajectory. Even having strategically reduced their High Street footprint, many large retailers, such as Debenhams and BHS, have still been forced to close for good.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated this shift to online shopping – as put by Sir John Timpson, the pandemic will cause ‘five years’ change to our High Streets in less than 12 months.’

Consumer trends and behaviours have changed already, and this shift will continue to evolve even further. There is no escaping the number of retail stores now standing empty and forlorn, giving our High Streets an air of decline. Across the UK over 200 large format stores remain unoccupied* many in prominent town centre locations.

However, even it is difficult to believe that these buildings will ever be open again as shops and department stores, all is not lost. Assets such as  this are suitable for a multitude of purposes and are ripe for conversion in to uses that can add value to a town or city and revitalise the communities in which they exist.

With the exponential growth of internet retail over the last decade the decline in High Street activity and prosperity is irreversible, yet the situation presents many opportunities for a radically different model in the future.

So, what does this mean for the future of our High Streets?

Coreus is already playing leading roles in transformative projects that are creating the high street of the future.

Coreus are involved in this High Street transformation first-hand and are on the ground making change happen, playing an integral part in the design team for several city centre regeneration projects. These projects are paving the way for what our High Streets of the future will look like, the positive impact they will create by bringing communities together as well as providing opportunities for growth and strengthening local economies. The catalyst effect this is having on the local economies is already visible to see with the projects Coreus are currently working on already attracting other local businesses into the city centres.

Here are some of our Coreus projects:

+ The repurposing and re-development of the Debenhams Store, in the centre of Gloucester, to create a city centre campus for the University of Gloucestershire. This injects education and student vibrancy into the very centre of this proud cathedral city

+ The re-development of 277 to 278 Oxford St Swansea for Swansea City Council to create a multi-purpose community hub and archive centre, bringing people and history to life in the heart of this great Welsh city, in what was an old BHS department store.

+ Yeovil Public Realm improving the public realm, changing the pedestrian areas to make the town centre areas more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.

+ Chard Public Realm Enhancement, part of a wider scheme by South Somerset District Council to regenerate Chard town centre, improving connectivity and giving all citizens a positive reason to visit their town centre.

For each of these projects, close collaboration across our specialist team is key. Using their expert knowledge, the team have found new, innovative ways to rejuvenate these existing buildings and spaces to create sustainable, future proofed solutions that meet the needs of the local community.

In such schemes, Coreus play a pivotal role in securing funding, helping to build business cases using live commercial data and leading on applications for funding such as:

+ Future High Streets Fund
+ Levelling Up Fund
+ SALIX Finance

The ex-Debenhams store, set to become the University of Gloucestershire’s city centre campus, is a prime example of how a department store can be repurposed to positively benefit the community.

The Gloucester Debenhams building has been at the heart of the community for over 80 years and is now being carefully redeveloped to provide a modern centre for teaching, learning and community partnerships. The University of Gloucestershire is leading the way in this area, showing that the future of the High Street lies in diversifying and finding new purposes.

For Stephen Marston, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Gloucestershire the redevelopment of the Debenhams store building will “place the University of Gloucestershire right at the heart of our community, breathing new life into a much loved but dilapidated building, and creating a vibrant hub of new activity in the city centre.

We are exploring a range of dual use facilities available to the public as well as University students and staff. We are confident that it will serve as an exemplar that other cities will adopt as they seek to re-invigorate their High Streets. Over the lifetime of the project, we estimate that the Debenhams scheme alone will add over £700 million of direct and indirect value to the economy.*”

Repurposing these large format stores can be costly but with the support of private investors and local government they represent real opportunity.

Upcoming significant changes in planning laws will help this evolution, broadening the range of possible uses to include social meeting places, such as art galleries and libraries, whilst also reducing the impact of
onerous development conditions.

Future High Streets Fund pledged £830 million to be invested in 72 areas across England.

£830 million

In addition, in December 2020 £830 million from the Future High Streets Fund was pledged to be invested in 72 areas across England.

It is intended to help transform High Streets into vibrant communities, creating jobs and kick-starting business in increasingly empty areas. This level of support and flexibility is certainly a step in the right direction to bring positive change to our High Streets.

So, is the future of the High Street exciting?

Absolutely. As trends evolve and technology advances, the role the High Street plays in our communities will be ever changing and always important. With the right support in place, a flexible approach, and a willingness to diversify, visionary organisations will be able to play their part in ensuring this change is positive and exciting, securing the future of our High Streets for generations to come.

Coreus can help you bring your High Street vision to life.

For a confidential discussion with you to explore your opportunities please contact us on:

Deloitte uk: What next for the high-street.
Forbes: The New Dawn For UK High Streets: Change Or Die/Reimagining The Future Of The High Street.
City AM: Britain 2030 writing off the high street is unambitious/covid was the final lever for the creative destruction of the high street its not gone just changing.
Guardian: Hmv death british high street.
Marketing Week: Open all hours the future of the high street.
Future High Streets Forum –
Image credit: LHC Architects – SSDC