A review of the York Retail Market

A review of the York Retail Market

With over 30 years’ experience of the commercial and retail property market in York, we have witnessed many changes over the years. Here’s our review of the challenges and opportunities for the market in 2019.

York is a very special place with lots going for it, however there is a national trend towards different ways of shopping, which, despite its charms, York city centre is struggling to overcome. It’s true that York is busy at the weekends for most of the year and it is heaving with tourists during the summer months, but this does not necessarily mean big profits for shop owners.

Out of town developments such as Vangarde Park at Monks Cross and the Designer Outlet in Fulford undoubtedly take their toll on the city centre and with the ever increasingly popularity of internet shopping, these are hard times for retailers in central York.

The loss of longstanding York businesses such as Mulberry Hall is sad but is surely a sign of the times, however there are some positives with independents such as Barnitts on Colliergate and Watkinsons on Goodramgate continuing to do well.

Increasing number of bars and restaurants

As retail shops shut, they are replaced by bars and restaurants and it has nearly reached the point where there is not a sufficient general retail offering to entice shoppers into the city centre.

Coney Street now has a string of large empty premises and finding alternative occupiers for these spaces is very difficult.  Sub-division into smaller units must be part of the answer, as is perhaps conversion to residential use.  There is also a limit on the number of large bars that York can cope with as evidenced by the failure of Revolucion de Cuba to get a premises licence for part of the old BHS premises on New Street.  That property still stands empty.

The impact on Landlords

It is not only retailers who are suffering.  Landlords who own properties in central York may not get much sympathy from many people, but it is not easy when rent drops, leases get shorter, lenders still need loans repaying and landlords face business rates liability on empty properties.

It is true that a number of large properties are owned by national pension funds, but many belong to private individuals from the York area and they have to make the best of it.  Having said that, a willingness to be flexible has meant that many have managed to keep going – although far too often by letting their properties out for bars and restaurants, not retail shops.  This may not be good for York’s long-term future but who can blame them?

Looking ahead

Although a reduction in business rates and better parking would help, you cannot get around the fact that the high street is going to be a very different place in the future and York must plan accordingly.

Events such as York Restaurant Week and the Residents Festival are good ways of bringing people back into the city and it’s nice to see them being well supported – we hope they continue.

Here at Guest Walker, we see both ends of the retail spectrum and are always on hand to provide tailored advice to clients with retail interests. If you’d like to speak to one of our team, please contact us on 01904 624903

John Walker