Creativity is key when repurposing retail

Creativity is key when repurposing retail

This blog is inspired by a theme in Impacts, Savills global thought leadership publication and research programme. This year is the ‘disruption issue’, looking at how widespread economic, political, demographic and technological upheaval is changing the world of real estate. 

Everyone knows that the global retail landscape is changing, and changing fast. Online shopping is transforming the way retailers use physical stores, as they convert more space to fulfilling click and collect orders and process online returns. 

Retailers around the world are being disrupted and are having to adapt to suit changing consumer behaviour. The role of the older style and under invested discount department store or the multi-level department store is being challenged and landlords are having to adapt to the fact that they may not always have the retail occupiers to fill empty or surplus spaces. However, what is encouraging, is the way many owners and developers are already looking creatively at repurposing and repositioning specific retail assets to meet the ever-changing demands of the communities in which they’re based. Often, multiple new uses are being incorporated into part or all of a redundant space, attracting new innovative occupiers, giving sites a totally new lease of life and – in many cases – creating exciting new places and destinations. 

The Australian retail landscape is well populated with new innovations with a particular emphasis on entertainment further reiterating regional shopping centres as a multi-experience destination be it an outdoor ropes course, indoor mini-golf or a casual dining precinct with premium hospitality brands.  

What is particularly encouraging in suburban Melbourne is the repurpose and redevelopment of the failed Masters Hardware boxes in Mornington and Braybrook by Home Co. The redundant large format retail boxes have now been converted into non-discretionary Coles anchored neighborhood shopping centres satisfying pent up consumer demand and making brave planning applications to enable the outcome.

It’s therefore often not just a case of simply repurposing retail with a single uniform alternative use, such as residential homes, but of finding a solution that works in that individual location and for the local community, and is as future proof as possible. This may include incorporating multiple uses, from the more traditional such as offices, hotels and gyms, to the more radical such as education facilities, entertainment precincts, retirement apartments and community space. The key is to consider what mix is most suitable to the location and strike the appropriate balance. 

For more on this and other 'disruption' themes, view Impacts 2019.

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