2015 has been an excellent year across the retail property industry and, as we look towards 2016 and another promising year, there is reason to celebrate the successes that we have seen across the board.
With the recession far behind us, investment levels have returned to their strongest levels since 2008. We are seeing a rise in investment not only in the capital and larger cities, but also regionally in areas that are seeing huge regeneration projects kick into action. New occupier concepts are emerging and expanding and the generation of retail developments and refurbishments conceived during or after the recession have come to fruition.
As the year has progressed it is clear that, as an industry, we have become much more innovative and are excelling in our approach to integrating technology with retail. We are better at understanding our consumers and are reaping the benefits by creating more all-encompassing retail and leisure experience. The continued advancement of digital platforms has helped retailers build their businesses, focusing on value, choice, convenience and customer service. This process is far from complete, but the importance of creating special places at the heart of shoppers’ retail experience continues to be central to the growth of our industry.
From my work as Chairman of the BCSC judging panel, one thing that has struck me this year is the importance of partnerships. This has been particularly evident with local authorities, transport providers and innovative financial tools that allow significant developments to be brought forward. This strategic and streamlined approach to collaborative development indicates the appetite to unlock fresh and exciting new schemes across the breadth of the country.
At a time when retailers are enjoying the Christmas sound of cash tills ringing, the strength of the market is clearer than ever. We are, and remain to be, a nation of shoppers. As our trust in the economy has re-established itself over the last few years, our desire to spend has seen exponential growth. With events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday now established events – there are plenty of reasons for consumers to part with their hard-earned cash.
We need only look at the four new centres that have opened in the UK this year to be able to reinforce the fact that 2015 has been a hugely successful year across the board. Schemes including Friars Walk in Newport and The Broadway in Bradford are demonstrative of the growing confidence we are seeing in the sector from investors and retailers alike. With a new year on our doorstep, we are looking to take this confidence even further in 2016.