Retailers struggle with out-of-town expansion

Retailers are struggling to ­convert their ambitious expansion plans into store openings in the out-of-town sector.

Retailers are struggling to ­convert their ambitious expansion plans into store openings in the out-of-town sector reports Annabel Dixon of Estates Gazette. Supermarket giant Asda this week said that plans to open 150 of its Living stores by 2015 may have been over-optimistic. Chief executive Andy Clarke said: “We still want to have an estate of 150 stores and believe we will get there – it just might take us a different timescale. Who would have forecast two years ago the sort of economic conditions that we have faced over the 18-month period?” An insider added: “Asda Living doesn’t have a trial format, and finding conforming parks – prime sites with 20,000 sq ft units with full-cover mezzanine and ­tenants such as Next and New Look – is harder than it thought. There is a lot in the pipeline.” Wren Kitchens is also understood to have stepped back on its expansion in the out-of-town market, putting a hold on acquisitions until the autumn. Last October, its property director Aidan Farrell said the 26-strong chain had scope to open 100 stores in the UK. And US electricals retailer Best Buy, which planned to open up to 100 shops of 25,000-60,000 sq ft by 2013, said earlier this month that it would open just three in the next few months, taking its UK portfolio to 11. Adam Patrick, partner at retail park specialist Edgerley Simpson Howe, said: “Over the past few weeks there has been a slight cooling of interest in store openings from some of the main retail players, who are perhaps pausing for thought given the consumer environment, disappointing trading over Easter and cost inflation of raw materials. “That said, the recent demise of Focus DIY and uncertainty surrounding Comet will release more opportunities for the many retailers who continue to expand.”