Those who follow this blog probably have already noticed that urban retail has already been the subject of several posts. And time seems ripe to focus again on that issue, for several reasons.
As you may have noticed, I’m writing from a country in which the last years have left us with a feeling of going to work each day as if you were losing a war; an economic crisis that has added to an international slowdown the results of our self-inflicted pains has not helped by any means the general mood. This has translated to urban retail to a situation in which nearly all the businesses, from El Corte Inglés, the national quasi-monopolic (by disappearance of all sizeable alternatives) brand of department stores, to the humblest corner shop, have suffered. Some have struggled but somehow survived , but the coincidence of that general demand crisis with two factors will probably devastate the urban retail landscape we knew. The first one is demographics: many small retailers appeared in a given period (1960s, 1970s), and they are reaching a retirement age, with no replacement in sight. The second one is the end of a regulation that limited the rent rise for old leases.
Sure, Chinese retailers have gained momentum, but they are far from being the only reason for the current slowdown.
Let me reassure you: I’m fully able to sing you the virtues of urban retail; what I will try to do in the next posts is to give you concrete examples of those general ideas. As the above image, taken not far from where I live (not necessarily what you would take as a posh district), tries to convey, sometimes retail is just what differentiates a set of housing units from a real neighborhood.