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Retail: an independent state of mind

27/06/2024

Insights

Retail: an independent state of mind

Changing shopping & leisure habits continue to shape the look & feel of many city centres. While some are struggling to find their new purpose & identity - it’s not so in Lincoln. Jasper Nilsson, Graduate Surveyor, shares the modern vibe being created by the independents who are setting the tone for Lincoln’s renewed commercial district.

We’ve had the privilege to be the commercial agent tasked with finding the tenants for the Lincoln’s new Cornhill Market which opened mid-May.

The building has undergone a £7 million transformation in turning the Grade II Listed former Central Market, owned by Lincoln's City Council, into the centrepiece of the wider £70 million regeneration, encompassing the Sincil Street retail and leisure area, known as the Cornhill Quarter, on which Eddisons has also been the letting agent.

The occasion of completing the latest of the deals with a tenant ahead of the opening and in taking the tally to 30 tenants - including two pop-up operators - gave me pause for thought about all that’s behind wider emerging retail trends. (Full disclosure: I joined Eddisons from the retail group, Frasers, last summer where I was a trainee commercial manager.)

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, household brand name retailers were struggling to reconcile shopping habits that were increasingly favouring ‘clicks’ over ‘bricks’, in a way not many retailers could have envisaged when they embarked on long term property commitments or business investments 10 to 15 years ago.

Periods of lockdown and the pressure on supply chains served to increase pressures that the big name retailers knew they were facing. And rising energy and interest costs have added to the burden for all operators.

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The current period of buoyancy in the retail sector is coming from the independents - particularly in select ‘hot spot’ shopping locations. It’s something on which our agents in Peterborough and Bury St Edmunds have remarked in offering comment on the last two RICS Quarterly Commercial Property Monitors.

The most obvious independents who are thriving are those selling services for which there is no online alternative, such as barbers, tattooists, beauticians and stylists. While you might be able to book appointments and pre-pay online, you can’t get a shave or a sleeve, a cosmetic procedure or a half-head of highlights without actually ‘being there’.

In the main, these kind of operators are setting the tone in secondary shopping locations and neighbourhood retail locations. But successful city centres are telling a different shopping story, in our experience - particularly in Lincoln. 

Independent retail and leisure operators have the benefit of a direct relationship with their customers. 

Customer experience, response and engagement, particularly across online or social media platforms post-purchase, offer more than a PR opportunity for the retailer. Where there is criticism of a product or a service, an independent retailer is fleet of foot in being able to respond or change their offer, in a way the large retailers, with their chains of command, cannot.

For instance, an independent café owner or restaurateur can alter menus to suit seasonal produce supply or pivot promptly to foodie fashions inspired by the latest TikTok trends.

For some younger generations of shoppers, there can often be ethical considerations in choosing to support local independents over the established brand retailers. 

Retail trends, fashions and pressures tend to get super-charged in provincial university towns and cities, where a large student population can often be a dominant influence in the commercial make-up of a central commercial district.

Lincoln market

Change in shopping habits and what we want from our ‘bricks & mortar’ outlets are something that landlords and property development interests have had to come to terms with.

At Eddisons, we were fortunate that the City of Lincoln’s vision for Cornhill Market was clear from the start. 

While the new look of the market retains the best of the architectural features of the Grade II Listed historic property, the feel of the trading spaces in the hall & at the mezzanine level reflects the expectation of modern retail & leisure to be an ‘experience’.

Having such a strong brief from our client guided us, as agents, in recruiting the right new tenants for the relaunched market. Its roll call of traders promises Lincoln locals and visitors an eclectic mix of modern ‘indie’ occupiers who are committed to the city centre’s new retail and leisure vibe and state of mind.

Get in touch with the Eddisons team

Please contact us for more details and information

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