The pandemic may have been a disaster for brick-and-mortar retail, but according to experts, the virus didn’t kill it altogether. Though many people have discovered the convenience of online shopping, we still see complaints here and there about missing delivery items and lengthy wait times.
While COVID-19 has really put a strain on traditional retail, with several department stores closing amid the lockdowns, it doesn’t necessarily mean doom for brick-and-mortars. Rather, they just need to provide more competitive value to their customers, according to Rajesh Bhargave, associate professor of marketing at Imperial College Business School. He also noted that changes in consumer behavior will affect stores that are already in the margin, or simply put, the stores that are already struggling before the pandemic.
Therefore, if you’re going to open a brick-and-mortar store in the UK, you have to consider the current standing of your industry. Department store chain Debenhams, for example, filed for administration recently, closing down 22 stores this year and planning to close 28 more in 2021. J.C. Penney, a 118-year-old department store chain, also filed for bankruptcy after a decade of losses. These scenarios mean that if you’re in the fashion/retail industry, you may have to consider other options before setting up a physical store.
But otherwise, if your research suggests that you can absolutely flourish as a brick-and-mortar, then that leaves you to the next step: finding the ideal location. There are many commercial hubs around the UK, but the following cities are particularly more promising:
Without a doubt, London is the number one city in the UK to open a store in. It is one of Europe’s economic powerhouses, being ahead in terms of investments and job opportunities. You’ll also find yourself looking at a more diverse talent pool, making your hiring process quicker and easier.
Real estate sellers will show you prestigious neighborhoods, stable infrastructure, and myriad networking opportunities. In fact, networking can be crucial for securing investment from venture capitalists and other financiers. London-based tech firms have received more venture capitalist cash than in Stockholm, Paris, and Berlin combined. Suffice to say, your chances of building connections with other business-owners are higher if your store is set anywhere in London.
Birmingham was once at the heart of the Industrial Revolution. As such, it has become a modern-day hub for business activity. The city has the largest active business population and a big talent pool. It’s also cheaper to rent a space here than in London.
Moreover, Birmingham has a clear potential for future growth, with numerous businesses seeking financing in the city. The planned infrastructure, which is the HS2 (High Speed 2) train line, is now under construction, and it would soon open a wave of business and employment opportunities.
If you plan to sell tech products, Sheffield is your city. Manufacturing, tech, and IT businesses are thriving in this place, thanks to its recent investments in its creative and digital quarter. Commercial rental rates are also lower here, attracting both local and international investors.
Sheffield City Centre will also be connected to the HS2 train line and Sheffield Midland Station. As a result, commuters from London can cut their journey down by 40 minutes. A new train line, the Northern Powerhouse rail, is also set to develop, and it will reduce journey times to Leeds and Manchester to less than 30 minutes. This will open up new labor markets and business opportunities.
Retailers in the tech sector will also prosper in Glasgow, the second-biggest city in Scotland. The only major drawback in this city is the high crime rate, but that has significantly dropped already. As such, the active business population rose.
Finding talents will be one of your greatest perks in this city. Glasgow is populated by a highly-qualified labor force, coming from 4 universities within a 10-mile distance from its city center.
Note, however, that even if brick-mortars remain essential, e-commerce businesses have still influenced the current retail landscape. Your store has to adapt to the ever-changing tech landscape and avoid making the same mistakes as Debenhams, J.C. Penny, and U.S.A’s Payless and Sears.