At a time of change and uncertainty, the moment has also come to reflect on the nature of the high street prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and look to how we can move forward to essential transformation following this period. What we are currently seeing in these unprecedented times is the ringing of tills in local independent stores such as butchers and corner shops, whilst the developers who hold stock are facing very challenging times. Surely this will be the catalyst to change?

A trend we saw prior to the crisis was an often strained relationship between developer and tenant, with high expectation and pressure from tenants looking for the developers to drive high footfall to their public realm, without necessarily paralleling their efforts. WAP have previously worked with multiple developers who create this opportunity through organising ‘HALO events’ whereby tenants have the opportunity to collaborate and enhance footfall and yet the uptake historically has been a surprising struggle. Where collaboration and quality experience have lead, we have seen success and this is a key process that we believe should be at the forefront of future Placemaking.

As we look forward to what follows COVID-19, we already know the high street will look different with major players such as Debenhams, Oasis and Warehouse going into administration and the fast reduction of Philip Green’s empire. With changing generations and changing interest in customer experience, this is the time for Retailers to re-evaluate their offering beyond wear and tear shop fits to a new realm of customer experience and brand identity that pushes us forward in Placemaking and customer experience. Retailers and Placemakers alike need to thrive for excellence and move away from the archaic surprise and delight format.

In this period we have also seen a huge rise in community engagement, with families working and shopping from home. In property there have been big moves from developers such as Shaftesbury PLC, who have set up community fund totalling £144,000 in addition to their regular charity support stating ” The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges to patterns of life and activity, and the Board’s waiver of remuneration will provide additional funding to support our community partners and their important work during the current crisis.[i] Grosvenor Estate have also donated to the London Community Foundation to support communities in the Capital most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, supporting front line efforts to help the people most in need.[ii]

Some predictions regarding the future of society have nodded to a movement towards home working as we are currently doing. However, with a strong sense of community at the core of our function and our natural thrive for tribalism, is this really the future and what will this mean for the high street?

We believe that this sense of community will continue to be adopted beyond COVID-19 bringing places closer together than ever before. Retailers and high street have a purpose in the future but need to rethink and evolve presently.

In order to ensure that we are moving forward, we should be looking at the core experience of retail and those leading the way with concept based stores such as Samsung, Apple and Decathlon. Beyond this we want to see communities brought together to create stronger places than ever before with experiences that we believe will bring people back together and back to the high street for a new era of Placemaking.

 

Article written by The Fair and WAP CEO Nick Morgan 

 

[i] Nichols, Jonathan, Covid-19: Creation of a Community Fund

http://otp.investis.com/generic/regulatory-story.aspx?newsid=1385574&cid=520

 

[ii] Supporting people and business in the West End of London https://www.grosvenor.com/news-and-insight/all-articles/supporting-people-and-business-in-the-west-end-of-