The UK’s retail park format has grown over the last 35 years and accounts for a significant amount of the UK’s overall retail floor space. Usually positioned on the outskirts of towns to provide cost effective space for the purchase of bulky products, or DIY goods, the format has evolved over time to include a wide range of stores to complete the experience for the shopper. One of the most inviting advantages for choosing the retail park over the high street is most often the FREE PARKING.
Not only is the no parking fee a huge bonus the parking isn’t treated as an add-on, but an important part of the shopping experience. The positioning of the shops and restaurants are often circled around the parking, so popping to the shop couldn’t be easier or lazier! Many a time the shop you require on the high street is a good 10 minute walk away from the nearest parking opportunity, albeit healthier, it can become a chore. Making life easier for the shopper is always going to be the enticing factor.
The design and planning of a retail park has developed greatly, cinemas are now being considered along-side the restaurants and stores so the shopper’s whole day and evening can be mapped out. It seems not only does the retail park cater for the shoppers using ‘click and collect’ at their favourite stores from an online purchase or a quick mad dash to get a forgotten birthday present, the retail parks are starting to cater for those who wish to meander, take in a coffee, lunch or possibly the cinema after a day shopping with friends.
A great example of the well planned retail park is the new retail shopping centre at Rushden Lakes in Northampton, situated on the ring road for ease and location.
Not only is it intelligently set out to include all of the above but it sits alongside the picturesque lakes, so when you do sit with a coffee to watch the world go by in the coffee shops the day becomes an experience rather than an agitated stressed run to the shops.
There is also a sense of security, it feels a safer place to drop off and collect teenagers to mooch around the shops rather than trapesing through town. More and more teenagers are embracing the idea of meeting friends for a coffee or chai tea at a snack bar as the ‘norm’; it beats hanging around on a street corner!
The retail park then becomes a one-stop day out, you could say it’s taken on the concept of the supermarket, grown legs and arms and exploded into a lifestyle choice. Many moons ago, supermarkets became a novelty and many items could be bought from groceries to clothing, this transformed the way we shopped and now they are now a fully integrated part of our lifestyles and we couldn’t imagine life without them.
Rushden lakes phase 2 is ‘The Cinema’ is opening this coming year…
The cinema opens up another string to the Leisure Park’s bow, this demonstrates the ability to attract a broad range of shoppers and generate high footfall, it encompasses all age groups to the Leisure Park and creates family time alongside crucial catch up time with friends. In fact it then covers all walks of life. There are some Leisure Parks which incorporate ‘climbing walls’ or ‘bowling alleys’ to encourage the younger generation with the specialized sport stores to support those sports. Maybe even with the intention for parents to book their children in for a couple of hours to climb whilst they shop!
There is a huge opportunity to make our retail parks the ‘new high street’, so let’s grab it.
Albeit disappointing to not encourage and support the high street as much, shopping is constantly evolving and we all know the online shopping growth has taken a huge percentage of the market. As we live life at such a fast pace the retail park seems to outshine the high street in many ways, so it becomes a no-brainer to shop there when something more than online is needed… the personal touch.
At least this means retail stores will be just as important as on line shopping for the foreseeable future!