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Retail webinar takeaways

During the lockdown, we’ve been attending a number of webinars which has definitely been positive, as it’s easier to fit them into the day or catch-up later as opposed to taking time out for an event but the two (live and online) are not quite same.

The more recent ones have focused on how to start up the high street after Covid-19, and what the future of retail may look like after this global pandemic.

Architects, Farrells ran a series of webinars discussing the impact of Covid-19 on the built environment, its design and the people living in it. One of these looked at reclaiming high streets post-COVID-19 and it’s interesting looking back to see that even though the discussion pre-empted opening dates for the high street, many of these points still hold true.

The main discussion points included:

  • Is there a silver lining? What are the short-term successes we can achieve after lockdown?
  • With 40% of London jobs able to be done from home (Centre for Cities), more people are connecting with their local area now they are not a community. Unfortunately, this may be to the detriment of larger town centres and cities(and what is being evidenced (anecdotally) in this article over the weekend  
  • Expect less office space, as people continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. What will happen to the businesses operating in the financial/office district of cities without the local workforce to support them?
  • More residential spaces will be created, above and around town centres
  • Retail may well contract due to social distancing and reduced services. While reopening is well underway, it’s not quite the magic wand of everyone reopening as they were
  • The importance of the ‘Joker Building’ type. A building that can be multi-functional and quickly adapt like Excel and Manchester Central becoming Nightingale Hospitals. This flexibility should be taken into consideration when planning new buildings
  • There need to be high street health checks to build their resilience alongside support for businesses reopening (much of which we are beginning to see now)

For a more global take on post-COVID-19 high streets we booked into the NLA session on “The future of retail in New York and London”.

The live webinar took place simultaneously in both New York and London and formed a key part of the NLA’s City Dialogues programme, which brings together speakers and audiences to foster cross-city dialogue and learning between cities.

Some of the key takeaways were:

  • The public realm will be about people and places first rather than retail and high streets
  • Businesses should embrace a ‘click and collect’ service and/or delivery (as and other platforms do). Businesses will continue to need multiple platforms to serve customers even when they are open again
  • The high street will become local again (more personalised to its location and by nature, more interesting). The global high street created ‘clone towns’ where no matter where you were in the world the same retailers were in the main shopping district
  • The high street and street markets offer a key location as business incubators and a chance to really connect with customers and hopefully, these opportunities will increase as the homogenised high street diminishes
  • Electric bikes are going to be of help to both individuals in helping them travel further while public transport use is discouraged and as cargo bikes for deliveries

There have been some really good webinars taking place throughout lockdown and it’s an easy way to get a sense of what’s happening in other places and the reality from those working on high street projects or running a business in a town centre.

Our go-to ones now are the High Streets Task Force series on Fridays, Civic Voice’s series on high street and there’s always something of interest at the NLA .

If you have attended any webinars recently which you’d like to discuss or you have a series to recommend, get in touch