Gyms, crazy golf, student flats, hotels or a whiskey-based tourist attraction: Many department store sites are unlikely to be included in future shopping. More than 200 of them are now vacant or will close next year, and property experts say the change could lead to the rebuilding of malls and center centers on a scale not seen since the post-war years.
Debenhams’ decision to close 124 stores in England and Wales – or more than one million square meters of retail floor space – is likely to close. Altus Group, a property consulting firm, estimates that the new purpose is equivalent to 148 Premier League football pitches.
Prior to the latest closure, Debenhams had closed more than 40 stores in the past two years. Meanwhile, at least 11 Houses of Fraser sites have been closed since August 2018, and more are expected to lower their shutters next year.
John Lewis recently closed eight lets toilets: half of which were full-size department stores, which are now empty. That, in turn, left its 22 stores vacant following the collapse of the Beals network. Only one reopened.
“It simply came to our notice then. We are going to see the biggest change in urban grain [the pattern of streets] After World War II, ”said Mark Robinson, chairman of the government-backed High Streets Task Force.
“Department stores have supported footprints that lead people through doors. A new way of looking at the intentions of cities and centers needs to be devised, ”Robinson said.
There is no single solution. Those running in the hall are not suitable for high vicom. “Establishing a chi-chi food market like Altrinch in all department stores is not the answer,” Robinson said. “Public consultation is important. You need to find answers within places and take local communities with you. ”
Looking at what happened to BHS’s 164-strong network that collapsed in 2016 highlights the scale of the challenge. Four years after its demise, a quarter of the former BHS stores are empty, according to local data company analysis.
Less than half continue to trade as large stores, with the remaining 30% redeveloped – either by demolishing or remodeling the interior, splitting it into smaller stores or merging it into neighboring buildings.
Primark acquired five stores, B&M and Sports Direct three each, and the others now include TK Max, Metro Bank or H&M.
By 2020, there will be fewer retailers for larger stores. Networks such as Marks & Spencer and Next are also closing outlets, while Primark has completed UK estate.
Some department stores will switch to leisure use like cinema. For example, the former BHS on Oxford Street is divided into a Swingers Golf Center, a Food Hall, and the Polish fashion brand Reserve’s Reserved UK’s first let toilet.
Hummerson has obtained planning approval to transform the House of Fraser outlet into a food hall, bowling style and crazy golf course. Houses of Fraser in Edinburgh on Princess Street is developing the beverage company Diageo as a tourist destination, while Johnny Walker promotes whiskey.
Many House of Fraserlets, including Birmingham, Lincoln and Extension, like Debenhams in Manchester, will be hotels with shops and offices.
The Westfield Shopping Center in West London has permission to convert two-thirds of the Houses of Fraser into co-op space, while at least one department store in Bristol may be used as a student residence.
Elsewhere, local authorities could play a more central role in rebuilding space for civic amenities such as health centers, nursery schools or libraries if money can be found.
In Falkstone, an option for a former Debenhams site, purchased by a local authority, includes retirement homes, a healthcare center and leisure facilities such as a movie.
Another part of Jaisa will be houses. Once a bastion of shopping, out-of-town malls are now looking to rebuild themselves into new cities, with homes for retail and other services.
There are plans to build more than a thousand homes on Lakeside in Turrock, Essex. Some authorities see opportunities to use similar ideas to bring people back to infectious urban centers.
David Fox, retail co-head at property consulting firm Colliers, believes three-quarters of Debenhams’ existing sites already have a plan for future landlords, which may involve smaller stores and other uses. But some old stores will be difficult to rebuild. Asbestos removal costs are expensive, and they can be rebuilt or demolished.
For some, the answer may even be a return to nature. In Stockton-on-Tees, a local authority is preparing to turn a local shopping center in the 1970s into a park, and a similar project is now being brought to Nottingham.