Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Shopping around – retail conversion

08/11/21Shopping around – retail conversion

Wherever we live, we’ve all seen our high streets changing over the last decade. People often highlight the negatives of shops closing, such as unsightly empty retail units and a lack of customers, due to many factors including business rates, often-expensive car parking charges and the convenience of shopping from home on the internet. There is no getting away from the fact that our high streets are changing. However, there are often positives to the change too. For every closure there is the opportunity for a new business to move into the premises and make it something fresh and exciting.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the need for local businesses to thrive and for produce and products to be available in neighbourhoods – be they cities, suburbs or country villages – on people’s doorsteps, without the need to get in the car, then drive and park somewhere.  

Premises, premises

The trending conversation is often around the conversion of office and retail space that is surplus to requirements being put to alternative uses. It is often mentioned that they can be transformed into living accommodation, to meet the ongoing shortages of housing stock, particularly in cities with growing populations. But business premises such as shops are also being taken over by a growing wave of independent companies that have seen the opportunity to try something new, during the pandemic. Having somewhere to operate your business from is one of the most important aspects of running a successful enterprise – particularly a public-facing one. It seems that a lot of people agree.

At Forge we have noted that since restrictions have eased and businesses have reopened, we have received a large number of enquiries about retail space that is vacant and available – with a view for it to be reused as shops. It seems that for all the negative aspects of the pandemic, many people have been able to reassess their lives and priorities and looked to pursue business enterprises that they might otherwise may have shied away from. The high street offers a number of advantages – not least that it will naturally attract customers as footfall is high. Some customers will hear about you and seek you out, while others will be passing trade. As a new business, a prime spot on the high street is a great place to get spotted.

Sweet taste of success

In the Shropshire market town of Oswestry, for example, we’ve seen independents and food and drink retailers moving into the town centre One example is Niche Patisserie, which has opened in a beautiful old building, the Black Gate on Salop Road. Their pastry chef Adam Cleal was a Bake-Off The Professionals semi-finalist in 2019. Thanks to his expertise, the quality of the food and the service is the same standard as visiting a five-star hotel. The family-run venture was a crowdfunded project and successfully opened its doors in September 2021. It is one of a number of local businesses that are reinvigorating town centres and high streets, at a time when some are perhaps writing them off too hastily as deserted spaces, ripe for residential redevelopment. Instead, those with vision and foresight are transforming them to their former glory.

Investing in local talent

It’s very encouraging to see that people are willing to invest their time and money in their local areas and in spaces, places and buildings that really need to be used, rather than falling into disrepair. They are an important part of our heritage and as our responsibility, they should be curated and celebrated. We are currently receiving many enquiries for empty retail units, which we hope will lead to a resurgence of the market town’s vibrancy and success. In our opinion, in the current climate, anyone looking to move into the high street needs to be clever and a bit nimble with their business model, but the opportunities are certainly there.

If you think you’d like to move your venture onto the high street and make your business dream a reality, then get in touch with us today to find your prefect premises.

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