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The staycation is here to stay

The staycation is here to stay

Helen Ashby-Ridgway 02 Nov 2017
I am looking forward to attending the Rural Entrepreneur Live event at Birmingham’s NEC next Wednesday (8 November 2017). In readiness I have dusted off a recent blog I prepared on the importance of the ‘Staycation’ to the South West economy, which was first published for Insider back in July. Travelling with a young child is not easy. Not only is there the challenge of packing everything you need into too few suitcases but you need to keep the toddler entertained during travel and be on full alert in the hottest of climes. And that is if things go well. Last summer my three year old daughter caught chicken pox on holiday in Italy. Had we been on holiday in the UK we would have simply driven home to our creature comforts. Our experience was simply bad luck. But, I have to say that those events made us think, should we stay in the UK this year? We are not alone. Holidaying in the UK is a popular choice that many of us are increasingly making. According to VisitBritain 44.7m holiday trips were taken in England in 2016, 2 per cent higher than in 2015 and 12 per cent higher than in 2008. Whilst the total number of holidays each year has fluctuated the ten year trend for England shows growth. Source: GB Tourism Survey The 2008 global financial crisis and the 2009 UK recession corresponded to a significant boost in the growth of domestic holiday trips in England, perhaps the two doing more to promote the Great British holiday than anything for some time. The change in exchange rates between the Pound and other currencies have helped. The ‘weak’ pound makes the traditional Mediterranean holiday not as value for money as it once did – paying in Pounds for a 10€ pizza is 16 per cent more expensive in July 2017 than it was on the 23 June 2016 and nearly 30 per cent more expensive than two summers ago.This is not yet as staggering a change as in 2008, but significant nonetheless for British holidaymakers in Europe. Source: Bank of England We are also taking more holidays: the ONS reports that 2016 saw a record number of visits to the UK by overseas residents and visits abroad by UK residents. We are finding excuses to take more short breaks by celebrating greater numbers of life events and with an appetite for gaining new experiences on holiday, the so called ‘staycation’ or holidaying in the UK is growing and it is boosting the UK’s economy. Around £85bn was spent on tourism in England in 2015 and when direct and indirect benefits are taken into account tourism in England contributes £106bn to the British economy while supporting 2.6m jobs (Visit Britain 2016). Tourist spending in local economies is for the taking and regions should be vying to increase their share. Between 2006 and 2015 , the South West experienced a 21 per cent growth in tourism spending. However, whilst this is strong performance, the region has seen its share of tourism national spend decrease (from 31 per cent to 29 per cent) despite tourism spending in England rising by 32 per cent over the same period. Whilst this is good news for the English tourism sector, it’s a lost opportunity for the South West. Source: GB Tourism Survey Without a doubt there are opportunities within the South West to reverse this trend. Indeed, the quality and beauty of the beaches and coastline go far beyond those I have visited in any Mediterranean country. It will be those local authorities that welcome and actively encourage tourism development that will gain the greatest economic benefits to boost their local economies. Local planning policies have often been restrictive and focused upon the control and limitations of development, such as holiday parks. But investment by operators is vital. The most proactive are focused on ensuring that their facilities and accommodation can attract repeat and new visitors year after year. We are seeing some local planning authorities in the South West responding positively to the challenge. Cornwall Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council are two examples where they recognise the need to support the tourist market through constructive policies and a culture of seeking opportunities. In my view this must continue to ensure the South West does not lose out to other regions who are also looking how to strengthen their share of that increased expenditure. As a country we are good at showcasing our tourism offer and while we continue to find excuses to spend a weekend or week away in the UK, the South West must take advantage of its strong position and ensure that we maintain and grow our regional tourism offer in the future. The ‘staycation’ seems to be here to, well, stay. In May, Lichfields published the Rural estates: economic benefits of rural tourism insight. This examined rural areas and the potential for country estates to diversify their existing operations, to include provision of tourist accommodation.

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We all knew it but now the evidence is there – our town centres are changing
Much of my career to date has been in town centres and retail planning. I have amassed extensive experience in completing retail evidence base studies for local planning authorities and project managing planning applications for major town centre, mixed-use proposals. As such, I have a keen interest in the future of our town centres. Lichfields was recently commissioned by Harborough District Council to update its retail evidence base. This was an update to a retail study that Lichfields had completed in 2013. This update, alongside the many other retail studies that Lichfields completes year-on-year, provides clear evidence that nationally, the composition of our town centres is changing over time. I have taken this analysis further and considered how our town centres have changed over the past decade, based on data set out in Experian Goad category reports, which cover UK town centres. A number of key trends emerge from this research: Convenience (food retail) There has been a recent increase in the proportion of town centre units occupied by convenience retailers on a national average basis. Between 2005 and 2014, the proportion of convenience units has stayed constant at around 8-9%. However, more recently there has been an increase of 2 percentage points to 11% in 2016.  This general trend is replicated in the proportion of town centre floorspace occupied by convenience retailers, albeit there has been a greater increase in the proportion of convenience floorspace. In fact, between 2005 and 2016, the proportion of convenience floorspace has almost doubled, increasing by 10 percentage points. It is expected that the proportion of convenience floorspace may fall in the future as foodstore operators continue to consolidate their position and focus their requirements on key strategic locations, albeit this may not be reflected in the proportion of convenience units, as these might increase as the focus on quality fresh food leads to more independent convenience shops returning to many areas.  Comparison (non-food retail) On a national average basis, the proportion of town centre units occupied by comparison retailers has reduced. In 2005, the national average proportion of town centre units used by comparison retailers was 47%. This proportion reached a low of 41% in 2012, during the global financial crisis. Whilst there has been a small increase in this proportion as the economy has improved, over the eleven years from 2005 to 2006, the proportion of comparison units has reduced to 43% (a fall of 4%). This change is significant and is mirrored in the proportion of comparison floorspace, with the proportion falling by 4% over this eleven year period.  Based on current and likely future retail and leisure trends, Lichfields considers that this overall trend is unlikely to be reversed, with department stores and high street retailers generally seeking less floorspace, but maintaining or seeking a presence in larger town and city centres.   With this change in mind, Lichfields has looked deeper into changes in the composition of comparison retail units, and there are some that are key. In 2005, ‘clothing & footwear’ accounted for 27% of all comparison goods retail units nationally. By 2016, this figure had fallen to 25%. The traditional sector of ‘booksellers, arts, crafts, stationers’ also fell sharply, by 4% over the same period. Class A3 (restaurants and cafes) and A5 (hot food / take-away) uses The converse to the decline in comparison retail businesses is that the proportion of food and drink uses in town centres has increased nationally. The proportion of food and drink units accounted for 14% of town centre units in 2005. In 2016, this proportion had grown by 2 percentage points to 16%. The general trend for an increase in the proportion of food and beverage uses in town centres has been well-documented and is likely to continue.  Looking into this further, it can also be seen that ‘hairdressers/ beauty parlours’ now account for 26% of all units occupied by service uses in town centres nationally, up from 22% in 2005. Likewise, the proportion of ‘restaurants/ cafes/ takeaways’ has increased over the same period, albeit by a lesser amount. Composition summary Why the changes? This confirms what everyone perceives - that town centres have fewer clothing and book retailers and more leisure and service- orientated uses such as restaurants and health and beauty parlours. There are many reasons for this trend in the UK, such as: People choosing to spend more on eating out and other ‘experiences’ rather than on traditional goods; The continuing increase in online shopping which affects clothing and book retailers in particular. According to Experian, in 2016 the proportion of sales in special forms of trading (i.e. non-store retail activity such as mail order sales, some internet sales and so on) as a proportion of comparison sales was 13% and this is projected to rise to 17% by 2035; Although there has been a recent resurgence in book sales, overall, the popularity of electronic books (or ebooks) has led to less demand for town centre floorspace for booksellers, whilst many booksellers with a physical presence in town centres have sub-let part of their floorspace to cafes and coffee shops, further reducing the amount of town centre floorspace occupied by booksellers. The concentration of national multiple clothing & footwear retailers in larger town centres, rather than seeking a presence in all town centres. The general trend is for clothing & footwear retailers to occupy larger units, however, the amount of floorspace occupied by clothing & footwear retailers overall in town centres is down; The pre-recession rise in disposable income and the ongoing popularity of eating out; and Vacant floorspace being filled by lower value uses such as takeaways, charity shops and pay day loan shops. Why Choose Lichfields? Lichfields is at the forefront of advising on town centre and retail development. We are town centre and retail experts and act for numerous clients with an interest in retail, leisure and town centre development, including developers, investors, operators and councils. We understand the changing town centre environment and the increase in popularity of leisure uses within town centres. Lichfields has a track record in assisting in the delivery of town centre re-developments and regeneration. We are keen to assist both new and existing clients further. To discuss any town centre planning-related requirements, please contact us. Image credit: Joe Okpako

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