Future: Department Stores

This 2021 report from Nexus Planning looks at the future of high street department stores, given the swathe of recent high profile closures. It explores how these large vacant spaces are now being repurposed to lead to more vibrant high streets with more multifunctional qualities. Based on an analysis of department store properties in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, the report finds over 75% are now occupied or have planning applications pending, some of which are now being turned into mix-use developments combining retail and leisure. Case study examples are also provided.

Date added 7 December 2021
Last updated 7 December 2021

This report looks at the future of high street department stores, given the swathe of recent high profile closures. Nexus examined occupancy activity from 2015 to Autumn 2021 in 917 department store locations across nine major retailers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, with a focus on Beales, BHS, Debenhams, Dunnes, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, and TJ Hughes. On a regional basis, the study looked at the location of those which remain open and the extent of vacancy, re-occupation, or redevelopment for those which have closed. Based on this research, the following key findings are presented:

Some key findings

  • Over 75% of department store properties are now occupied or have redevelopment plans pending.
  • 47% of department stores open in 2015 are still in operation as of Autumn 2021.
  • 55% of department stores closed since 2015 have since undergone redevelopment or have plans to do so.
  • 24% of 2015 department stores are currently vacant without redevelopment plans.
  • The biggest redevelopment use identified is retail, covering 62% of redevelopment plans.
  • Of the now-closed department stores, 19.7% are being used for other purposes (e.g. leisure, offices etc.)
  • Regional differences are evident in the data, with the East Midlands worst affected with 70% of their department stores in 2015 no longer in operation, whilst the Republic of Ireland have fared best, with 82% still operational.

The report concludes by presenting several case study examples of how former department stores have been repurposed to instil a sense of vibrancy on the high street, including:

  • Primeyarc, a former Debenhams in Great Yarmouth (a space for communal creative collaborations)
  • Lock29, a former BHS in Banbury (a space showcasing local artisan and independent food and drink)
  • Really Local Group in London and South East (filling empty department store spaces with inclusive community hubs)
  • So Resi, a former BHS in Ealing, London (contemporary apartments)
  • Roxy Ball Room, a former BHS in Liverpool (leisure, drinks and games space)
  • Lumley Shopping Plaza, a former Beales in Skegness (shopping centre geared around supporting local independents).