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Town centre shopping list: Four ideas replacing traditional retail

flight club
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Councils are looking to new and not so new ideas to revive town centres

time out market lisbon

time out market lisbon

Time Out’s market in Lisbon is being used as a model for further such ventures worldwide

Competitive socialising

Young people might be more inclined to swipe on their phones than to meet a new partner in a bar, but that doesn’t mean they want to stay home.

One new form of social experience that’s catching on is competitive socialising – activities you can play with and against friends – which began in London and is now spreading to other cities. Examples include Flight Club, a bar and social darts brand that has taken over former nightclubs, and Bounce, a ping pong brand which has venues in London and Manchester. The indoor golfing sector is part of this trend with companies such as Urban Golf, Adventure Leisure and Junkyard Golf, while adventure games that require brains as well as brawn, such as The Crystal Maze experience, are also proving popular.

According to Stephanie Baigent, an associate with Knight Frank, we mustn’t view “competitive socialising” as just a fad. “As long as operators are able to stay flexible in their offering and bang on trend with their ways of keeping the fickle customer amused, then competitive socialising is here to stay,” she says.


Light and water

According to Philip Kolvin QC, head of Cornerstone Barristers, who published the Manifesto for the Night Time Economy in 2016, a “sense of place” can be created through clever use of lighting and water, “which draws people in”.

He highlights examples of the Peace Gardens, an inner city square in Sheffield, lighting displays at the Great Exhibition of the North, held last year in Newcastle and Gateshead, and the Light Night arts and light festival in Leeds.

flight club

flight club

Flight club has taken over former nightclubs


Modern age markets

Although shoppers who do their weekly shop in a local market are becoming a rarity, some modern markets are booming.

Bill Grimsey, who has written two government reports about the future of the high street, believes local produce will come back into play and will become more market driven. He says: “The millennials won’t want French beans flown in from Kenya every day. I can see all of this changing and we must be able to respond to it.”

In Portugal in 2014, the editors of Time Out magazine’s Lisbon edition turned a historic market hall into a hub for what they deemed to be the best of the city’s food and culture. Time Out is now introducing the same formula of markets across the world, with a London-Waterloo market expected to open in 2021.


Independent offering

Most conventional products can be bought with a click, so independent and local retailers whose offering is unique are critical for a sense of place.

“To survive, independent stores must provide what their customer wants, and they must also provide what a conscientious landlord wants: differentiation, experience and a sense of place,” says Knight Frank’s retail agency partner David Legat. “Concerns are still attached when agreeing deals with smaller retailers over covenant strength. But in a market littered with [company voluntary arrangements], there is now often a question mark over some larger tenants previously thought of as safe income.”

future places logo

future places logo

The race is on to build 300,000 new homes a year – but how can you ensure your new communities are prosperous, healthy and vibrant? The event seeks to support councils to form the relationships that can get new developments off the ground, and offer inspiration to shape their rapidly changing places to promote fairness and opportunity.

For details see here



  • town centre shopping list

    Town centre shopping list: Four ideas replacing traditional retail

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