Out-of-town retailers need design input

Designers should grab the opportunity to transform out-of-town retail parks into developments which mimic the profile of the high street, according to Verdict’s research.

Verdict’s report Out-of-Town Versus the High Street claims retail park superstores were responsible for 51 per cent of all retail trade in the UK in 1996.

However, Verdict chairman Richard Hyman says, “Out-of-town sites used to be able to trade solely off the back of growth, but success is now based on retailers showing a competitive edge. Designers have a big part to play in adding value [to retail parks].”

The report finds the grocery, DIY and electrical sectors saturated, and claims there are few good sites left on which to develop food stores. New larger superstores such as Craft World, PetsMart and The Source are burgeoning, with sales growing fivefold, according to the report.

As a result, superstores are polarising into smaller, older generation, “do it all” sites, and larger parks with a variety of outlets.

“Many superstores are known somewhat pejoratively as ‘sheds’. Designers can tackle this idea. There is no reason why superstores need to look like airport hangars,” says Hyman.

“Comparison shopping” will continue to exist among the fashion and leisure item sector. And just as retail parks upgrade, so the high street will “be under more competitive pressure, throwing up opportunities for designers”, he adds.

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