The principal findings of work undertaken by NLP and Lunson Mitchenall are:
• Sustained economic uncertainty, a return to recession in 2012 and continued growth in the proportion of comparison retail shopping undertaken on-line has reduced considerably the demand for new high street floorspace;
• The increase in prime yields and the spiralling proportion of floorspace vacant in Stoke-on-Trent, over the period 2005 to 2012, provide clear evidence that the City Centre has faired much worse during the economic downturn than the ‘average’ UK centre;
• Significant growth in internet usage and accessibility has driven up the market share of non-store comparison sales and led to retailers developing multi-channel business models, which has reduced demand for high street retail floorspace;
• Planning by Stoke-on-Trent City Council for new retail floorspace in the City Centre is based upon an out of date evidence base that doesn’t take account of the economic difficulties over the last few years, which we continue to encounter. There is a major mis-match between projected capacity available to support new floorspace in the future and proposals that already have planning permission. Spare capacity only kicks in after 2022 and then only at a modest level, which is in stark contrast with the c.48.500 sq. m net of floorspace arising from commitments;
• There must be significant doubt over whether the Realis East-West redevelopment will come forward in its current form, or at all, considering it did not come forward, even in the most favourable economic conditions. Uncertainty over East-West is undermining investment elsewhere in the City Centre, particularly within the Potteries shopping centre; and
• The City Council must revise its evidence base and urgently reconsider its approach to planning for the future prosperity of the City Centre if Stoke-on-Trent is to preserve its role as a sub-regional shopping destination.