When talking of the retail market, the media headlines have been for high profile failures and High Street names in trading difficulties such as House of Fraser, Debenhams, Poundworld, HMV, Toys’R’Us to name just a few.

What the media have not picked up, or perhaps they just prefer bad news stories, is the resurgence of the secondary retail market; those locations just off the main High Street or Shopping Precinct, where rents are more affordable and service charges are low or non-existent.

The market towns of Wiltshire can virtually all boast good demand in this sector, with hair and beauty; food and drink and quasi-medical uses to the fore.

Leading the way has been the number of barber shops opening! It still amazes me the number we now have in some towns in the area. Are they all going to be sustainable long term?

There have also been continued openings of nail bars, beauty and eye lash salons – services you can’t buy online.

A growing market for small shops has been the emergence of the Micropub. These small pubs, often just one room, have become popular, with micropubs already open in Pewsey, Devizes and Chippenham, and one recently opened in Melksham. It’s interesting to see the change of focus for drinking establishments, with these proving popular while the number of large, older style pubs coming to the market continues to increase with many being sold and subject to conversion to residential use.

The Prince of Wales micropub in Chippenham which opened in September 2018

What I class as quasi–medical uses include physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, chiropodists and also yoga and Pilates studios etc. I have either let space to such uses or shown those parties around premises in recent times.

In the first week of January, I placed a secondary shop on the market in a local town and within only a few days had a long list of enquiries for it and a number of viewings in the diary.  The interested parties? A photographic studio, a tattoo studio, an osteopath, a yoga studio, a Pilates studio and a micropub. Not a retailer in sight but plenty of potential occupiers!

As ever, don’t just believe the headlines – look a little deeper and there are positive stories in the retail sector away from the High Street.  All we need is the planning system to make it a bit easier for some of these uses to occupy vacant shops without having to go through a tedious and time consuming Change of Use application!

Now, where’s that micropub………

Huw Thomas recently wrote the above article for Commercial Property Monthly