Sector trends

The future of retail

Here’s our take on Local Data Company’s 27th Retail & Leisure Trends Summit.

At a glance

  • Consumers are increasingly combining digital and physical interactions when shopping. 
  • Brands most likely to win in this new landscape are those offering seamless, high-quality, personalised experiences online and on the high street. 
  • Retail parks are attracting different types of outlets, with more fast food and hospitality a noticeable trend.
  • If a location receives appropriate investment and has a supportive local council, it can thrive.
  • Despite rising costs, it could be counterintuitive to cut investment in people or training.  

LDC Retail and Leisure Trends Analysis

We were delighted to host the Local Data Company’s 27th Retail & Leisure Trends Summit recently, at which LDC presented its latest Retail and Leisure Trends Analysis with the help of a retail panel full of insight and experience. 

David Scott, our Head of Retail & Leisure, opened the event by drawing on the experiences and habits of his 21-year-old daughter:

“I can’t think of a time when consumer behaviour was so fluid, in hospitality and retail. The speed of change in buying behaviours is remarkable. A few years ago, my daughter shopped online, bought lots of clothes and returned most of them. Now, she researches carefully online, selects an outfit, and goes to a store to try it on. One bad in-store experience can mean she drops a brand she has previously been loyal to. My learning is brands need to get this blend of digital and physical right.”

Here are 10 takeaways from the Summit, which could help you find the right balance to manage the rapid pace of change. Our Retail and Leisure Outlook with Retail Economics is also well worth a read for ways to survive and thrive.


Alberto Esguevillas Lete, Chief Executive, Eurofund Group

Phil Mickler, Chief Operating Officer, ME+EM

Rebecca Morter, Founder and Chief Executive, Lone Design Club

Ronald Nyakairu, Data and Insights Lead, Local Data Company

Lucy Stainton, Commercial Director, Local Data Company

1. Is the post-Covid boom over?

This year’s report shows that while multiples have been protected from a combination of rising costs – especially energy and wages – and higher interest rates, the outlook is more pessimistic than last year, especially for independents. Alberto Esguevillas, CEO of Eurofund, was more optimistic on the basis that the death of retail had been over-played before. “People want to get out of their homes and experience something real,” he said.

2. The retail park boom continues.

The H1 2023 Trend Report shows retail parks continuing to thrive, experiencing lower than average vacancy rates (8.1%, compared to an average of 13.9%). On the high street, the barbershop boom has continued, as the category with the highest net gain in outlets. With beauty and nail salons also doing well, but hairdressers declining, consumers appear to be looking for more affordable ways to feel good.

3. Investment can help with regeneration.

The collapse of department store chains has changed UK shopping centres, with locations experiencing a higher than average “persistent vacancy rate” (empty for over three years).

Derby and Altrincham centres were cited as examples of positive regeneration though. The key ingredients are good investors, a supportive local council, and a willingness to diversify into sectors such as automotive, health and fitness. Alberto described it as “adding layers to the cake of the asset.” 

4. Is the future of retail omnichannel?

Consumers, especially younger ones, are combining digital and physical shopping experiences in interesting new ways. Smart brands are drawing on and combining data from all channels. Rebecca said younger consumers want “discovery and exploration” from retail. “They want it to be more than transactional”. Each channel has a distinct role, but they need integration backed by excellent customer service across the whole.

Phil said these demands have made it more important for retailers to give customers reasons to visit stores. “Make sure in-store shopping is a rich experience with high-quality service from staff trained on the full product range.”

5. Successful retailers find new ways to use data. 

There are so many new sources and uses of data in retail. ME+EM opened its first store outside London in Edinburgh not just because it’s a great shopping hub and a capital city, but also because they had lots of data to show they had a strong customer base in the surrounding area.

6. Experience, community and storytelling should be the heart of retail.

Young consumers are prepared to spend more per item because they know they have the possibility of selling it on, through second-hand channels and marketplaces. They don’t see their ownership of an item as the end of its life. Consumers appreciate discovery, excitement, and experience when shopping. They want memories and moments to latch on to. 

7. International luxury brands are attracted to the UK.

The changing shape of UK retail is evident from the 10-year data comparison LDC can now offer. The report shows luxury fashion brands as well as food brands have taken advantage of London’s booming tourist sector, itself driven by a weak pound, and entered the market in 2023. International fashion brands often start online only, using this to learn about the market and consumers and then expanding into physical stores. The panel agreed that without such physical stores it can be very hard to achieve a real presence and grow awareness.

8. The retail landscape in 2023 is more diverse than 2013.

The arrival of so many new brands in 2023 shows how the retail landscape has changed over this decade. The trend for brands to come and go is unlikely to change according to LDC, and the forecast is for UK retail to be more diverse in years to come. “We don’t expect many chains in five years will have over 3,000 units,” said Lucy. “We see a market where there will be smaller chains, but they will also be backed up with a strong online proposition to support the stores they do have.”

9. The right brand in the right location is key to success.

In the hybrid age, successful brands will be the ones that use physical stores to add something extra. Rebecca said: “It’s about delighting, exploring and innovating,” adding it was key to bring the right brands to the places where the right consumers were. “Think about a high street as a well-curated, open-air department store. They’re not just a place to shop, but a carefully curated hyper-targeted space for small pools of people.”

10. High streets need to right-size.

Rather than fret about a dying high street, the panel agreed that to be effective, local planners needed to consider how many shops is the correct number for their high street. This could mean reducing the number of units and switching some to other uses. By shrinking to fewer units, they could offer a better experience and nicer environment with a collection of curated retail outlets and few, if any, empty sites.

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