The evolution of London’s retail environment

10 September 2019

We have seen a consistent trend of consumers being more inclined to shop online for price, choice and convenience, this has been worrying for the UK high street. However, a recent promising return in interest to bricks and mortar for retailing has occurred, especially in London.

To re-capture consumers attention, landlords and landowners are acknowledging ‘place-making’ as a way of enticing consumers back into the shops. We are seeing restaurants, cafes, repair centres, florists, gyms featuring in mixed-use environments, offering a dynamic and vibrant destination, which in turn encourages spend through additional dwell time and discovery of new products and services. This atmosphere is something that cannot be satisfied through online shopping. With the modern-day millennial being space and time poor, a mixed-use destination that can offer enjoyment is pulling people away from their screens and on to the streets.

42 online only brands have opened physical stores in the UK since 2008. Retailers are seeing a 37% increase in web traffic and 32% more online sales in a market where they have opened a new store demonstrating the importance of a physical space and try before you buy.

Consulco Investments

Away specialises in premium luggage and opened its first store in Covent Garden last year after launching and operating via online channels only for one year. The store was intended to introduce people to the brand and concept, who could then access the full collection and purchase through their website.

Coal Drops Yard opened late last year and is a ‘shopping and lifestyle district’ developed by Argent as part of the Kings Cross redevelopment. The area is situated away from main roads and pedestrian thoroughfares, and on the periphery of a central business district. It relies on popular restaurants and hosting events to draw people in. Last weekend it hosted a ‘Wine Car Boot’ for tasting and buying wine. Samsung opened their new flagship store in the development earlier this month describing it as a ‘creative and digital playground’.


Boxpark is a food and retail park made from refitted shipping containers and first opened in Shoreditch in 2011. They now have two further London locations, opening in 2016 and 2018. There are plans to expand across the UK due to their success and we are seeing similar concepts opening globally.

eccleston yards

Grosvenor is a privately-owned property group that control a large proportion of Mayfair and Belgravia. They developed Eccleston Yards in Victoria, which they describe as a hub and community for creative enterprise and co-working ‘a destination that can champion and introduce new and innovative brands’.

covent garden

Covent Garden re-opened as a shopping destination in 1980 and has stood the test of time as it remains one of London’s must visit tourist destinations with 40 million visits a year. Capco manage 1 million sq ft and can therefore control the retail ‘mix’ to keep the area interesting to consumers. 150 new brands have opened within Capco’s estate since 2016.

These are a few examples of how retail spaces are operating as an extension of the public realm rather than the other way around. We look forward to this trend, a response to consumer behaviour continuing. It keeps London in the spotlight as a vibrant and exciting destination, ever evolving and growing.

At Consulco Real Estate, we are aware of these trends and we always seek to ensure that the investments we buy are located close to or are in areas where large public sector and private corporate ‘place-making’ projects are taking place.