Keeping our capital working for the UK

Print this page

Are you being served? The future of retail


Matthew Hill, Programme Director – Hospitality, Retail & Leisure, London First
Retail has seen some fundamental shifts over the past 15 years: The explosion of online shopping; the ongoing decline of the local high street; cost-polarisation; the rise in destination shopping and experience; the expectation of on-demand service and delivery; the blurring of hospitality and retail, and a shift from large outlets to convenience formats.

These are challenges which are being experienced around the UK, but London is different. Adoption of new technologies by consumers is quicker, their shopping and lifestyle patterns are different, and the ownership of infrastructure is complex. London is a laboratory, testing ground and early adopter for new trends in retail. We’re also a destination for shoppers from across the UK and around the globe.

The impacts of this change are felt by the private and public sectors alike. Retailers have to invest in transforming physical infrastructure and supply chains into formats which meet the demands of modern, mobile shoppers. While the city has to deal with greater delivery traffic on the roads and conflicting planning needs. In particular the need for London to build more homes for its growing population places pressure on retail space, as well as pricing many employees out.

So, let’s assume that all the predictions for the retail, stores and high streets of the future come true. Everything from frictionless payment and collection points at tube stations, through to delivery drones and AI shop assistants. What needs to be done now to enable change to happen and keep London ahead of our competitors?

In order to get to the bottom of the question, London First will be holding a series of workshops with members. We will look at the particular challenges and opportunities of retail change in London, and the needs of business, BIDs and Boroughs to manage that change. We’ll explore some of the great work already being done locally and how that can be scaled up to best-practice across the capital, plus any further interventions or policy change needed on a pan-London basis. Our recommendations will also feed into the London First Skills Commission and our representations on the London Plan and Brexit.

On Monday 18th September, we’ll be kicking off with a panel event and discussion around the areas we should be focusing on. London is a platform, and if retail businesses want to keep selling on that platform, where does it need to improve to strengthen its offer? Tech infrastructure? Skills? Roads? Public realm? Planning policy?

Please join us for that discussion, led by an eminent panel, including: Julie Carlyle (Partner and Head of Retail, UK & Ireland, EY), Laura Wade-Gery (now British Land, but an alumnus of Tesco and M&S), Robin Mortimer (Director of Retail Property at Hammerson) and Eva Pascoe (eCommerce pioneer and Digital Strategy Director at The Retail Practice).

London First Tweets