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Have we Reached Saturation Point for Convenience and Discount Stores?

Peter Hemple looks at the changes taking place on the UK high street

Data from the Office for National statistics (ONS) shows that over the past five years around 3,000 supermarket convenience stores have opened in the UK, plus around 1,000 independent convenience stores (the likes of Budgens and Londis). However, during the same period, the number of ‘standalone’ independent shops decreased by 5,000 units.

So as a landlord of a retail unit on a typical UK high street, are convenience stores one of the safest tenants to have at the moment? Before we look at convenience stores in more detail, the more relevant question might be, ‘if you are currently refurbishing retail units and looking for new tenants, which industries might you want to avoid?’

Technology is going to define what a parade of shops will look like in the 2020s
Once again we find that the advancement of technology is producing winners and losers in the retail space. We already know that Netflix was the final nail in the coffin for Blockbusters and the likes of Spotify have banished HMV for good, (both of these companies went bust in 2013).

However, you could argue that the arrival of Blockbuster on a typical UK high street was the beginning of the end for the two or three independent video/DVD shops that were originally there, so ‘what goes around comes around’. But, while the high street has been suffering for decades now, often losing its local butcher, baker, fishmonger and off-licence, as they lost too many customers to the supermarkets, when I think about which industry currently dominates shopping parades, especially in London, it is without doubt the estate agents.

For example, I used to work as an estate agent in Streatham, in south London. Admittedly, it is a very long high street but a quick search for Streatham estate agents on Rightmove revealed that there are at least 25 estate agencies still operating on Streatham High Road. Were technology to completely erase this industry the effects on the high street would be catastrophic. These agencies usually have five or six employees, which means that 100-150 estate agents visit the local cafes and sandwich shops on Streatham High Road almost every day, not to mention the considerable revenue stream that this industry provides to the local pubs and bars!

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