This week, stakeholders in the retail market heard experts’ views on the recent key developments in this sector.

Following a report entitled “Retail Market Trends: End of Year 2015” produced by The Local Data Company (LDC) Matthew Hopkinson, Director at LDC, presented on its key findings.

This was followed by a panel discussion of trends in the sector at large and possible forecasts of future developments. The panel was chaired by Damian Wild, Editor of Estates Gazette and included our own Anthony Newton, Michael Weedon of the British Independent Retailers Association, Andrew Angeli of CBRE Global Investors, and Ava Pascoe of The Retail Practice.

The report highlighted the growing strength of retail parks with a net increase of over 500 units across the UK in 2015. Conversely there was a net reduction in the number of high street units and a shifting of the balance between independents and multiple retailers in this location. Multiples saw a net decrease of 1043 high street units in 2015 whilst independents increased by 593.

The report also focused on the different challenges facing regions across the UK. The majority of regions saw more closures than openings in 2015 however the opening of the Grand Central Shopping Centre in Birmingham and Friars Walk in Newport saw both the West Midlands and Wales buck this particular trend.

Much of the panel’s discussion focused around the possible consequences of an exit from the EU in the forthcoming referendum. Whilst the panel were in agreement that a vote to remain would have very little direct impact on the retail sector, an exit from the EU was thought to be potentially very disruptive. Anthony Newton commented that “if the UK leaves the EU and decides to continue its relationship with the EU through a series of trade deals it may take up to five years to negotiate a stable relationship with the EU, at which time Sterling would be expected to stay volatile”.