“Retail space returned to landlords in high street crisis, Colliers International reveals”

Owl says: would Tesco be calling for a “level playing field” between high street and online shopping if they had not just closed Tesco Direct – their online retailer!

“Retail space equivalent to about 180 football pitches has been handed back to landlords this year, in a stark sign of the challenges facing the high street.

A day after House of Fraser announced that it would be closing more than half of its stores, an analysis by Colliers International shows that 11.6 million sq ft of retail has been “lost” to administrations, company voluntary arrangements and planned store closures this year.

The property consultancy said that this included the two million sq ft of retail space that Marks & Spencer planned to offload by closing 100 stores.

Fears are growing for the future of high streets as more retailers struggle and try to close stores through CVAs — the contentious insolvency process that allows retailers to shut shops and cut rents at landlords’ expense. New Look, Carpetright and Mothercare are among those that have entered into CVAs this year and House of Fraser’s proposed CVA has infuriated many in the property industry. The British Property Federation, which lobbies for landlords, has called for an urgent inquiry into the practice.

However, retailers say that they are facing a toxic mix of high rents, rising wages and costs and a structural shift in the industry as more people shop online. Yesterday, Dave Lewis, chief executive of Tesco, told the BBC that the burden of business rates, which hits retailers with large store estates hard, was to blame for many of the present woes.

He said that Tesco paid more than £700 million a year in business rates and that “you need a level playing field . . . between an online digital world and a traditional retail store base model”.

Dan Simms, co-head of retail agency at Colliers, said that the retail space at risk of closure this year was already more than the 10.7 million sq ft handed back in 2016, the year BHS collapsed.

“What we are seeing now are a lot more retailers closing stores,” he said. “It is much more broadly based so it feels like things are markedly worse.”

Analysis by Harper Dennis Hobbs shows that about 25 million sq ft of retail space was lost between 2008 and 2010 …”