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Refurbishment favoured in retail industry survey

A survey of a small but select group of major players in the retail industry has revealed the sector is prioritising refurbishment over new build. The research, carried out by Construction News and Lychgate Projects this month, comprised in-depth interviews with 11 leading retailers and developers.

The research found that four of the 11 surveyed expected to spend less on new-build over the next two years, while only one respondent indicated that he expected his company to spend more. Six said they would keep spending the same as in the past two years.

However, prospects for refurbishment are better – four of the 11 surveyed expected to spend more over the next two years, with only one expecting to spend less. This trend was due to stores coming up for refurbishment, a belief there were more opportunities to develop via refurbishment rather than spending on new-build, and rebranding exercises.

Two retailers commented that the development opportunities are not coming through from developers, which has curtailed their new-build programme.

In terms of development type, the majority view was that there is a trend towards mixed-use developments in town and city centres. The survey also revealed a trend towards centralised plant and equipment rather than each retailer providing their own.

One respondent said: “There is a move away from larger out-of-town units. Our strategy is to focus on cities and major town centres, because this is where our customers are.”

According to the research, the retail sector views m&e businesses as lacking in innovation. One respondent complained: “There seems to be the same old solutions, particularly when taking over existing stores. There is little innovation like ‘we could re-use that’ or ‘there’s a clever way to do this’. They seem very set in their ways.”

Further concerns were noted, such as the proliferation of hvac equipment from China (which increased carbon footprint) and shortages of skilled m&e consultants and contractors.

On a more positive note, respondents were keen to get m&e contractors involved at the earliest possible stage in the construction process, sometimes even before the main contractor is involved.

The companies that participated in the research included Tesco, Waitrose, House of Fraser, Boots, Asda, Land Securities, Development Securities and British Land.

The job titles of interviewees included design manager, development director, construction project manager, store development director, head of construction, and director of design, development and construction.