The suburbs are the future of post-COVID retail

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have witnessed a rediscovery of local centres, as people have tended to stay closer to home. This November 2020 Conversation article, written by academics Gary Mortimer, Louise Grimmer, and Paul Maginn, discusses the significant challenges faced by Australia’s central business districts during the crisis. Conversely, like other places around the world, such as the UK, the article identifies a growth in localism.

Date added 5 November 2020
Last updated 5 November 2020

This Conversation article, written by academics Gary Mortimer, Louise Grimmer, and Paul Maginn, discusses the significant challenges faced by Australia’s central business districts during the coronavirus crisis. They explain how major city centres were already facing issues before the pandemic, owing to cautious consumers, a rise in online shopping, and a growth in suburban ‘mega-centres’, which has now been exacerbated further by lockdowns, changing work practices, and social distancing requirements. They identify that, in Australian cities, retailers selling clothing, footwear, and personal accessories have been particularly hard-hit. This is since many people now have less discretionary income, meaning that sales have fallen in these areas (-10.5% in August 2020). Department stores located within larger Australian cities have also struggled, more so than those in the suburbs. Indeed, like other places around the world, such as the UK, the article identifies a growth in local shopping during the pandemic, in part due to people working from home and therefore less commuting activities, which is estimated to continue beyond the pandemic (by an estimated average of 25-30% quoted in the article). As the authors conclude, which could also provide insights into the future of English towns, cities, and high streets:

"With many more people working from home during the pandemic there has been something of a retail inversion with more people shopping locally. There are clear signs of a resurgence in local shopping villages and high street retailing. There even appears to be a corner store revival of sorts.... Major questions are being raised about the future character and function of the CBD and, ultimately, about the structure of Australian cities more broadly".

For related resources

Please see this High Streets Task Force footfall report on how footfall in district and neighbourhood centres has been more resilient during the pandemic than in big cities.

Please see this IPM blog post written by Dr Steve Millington on Covid-19 recovery and district centres.

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