How can we help?


The Future of Retail and the Challenge of the Tech Revolution

The UK is known as a nation of shoppers.  Over the last few decades shopping has become a leisure activity and shopping centres have become the place to spend at least part of each weekend – an opportunity to look at the latest stock and to try out various dining options.

But retailers are under pressure on many fronts.  On one they face a loss of market share to Amazon and other on-line groups.  On another many retailers have failed to adjust to discount retail chains such as TK Maxx and the discount food retailers.  These operators have slashed prices while keeping many of their products very close to those sold in mainstream retailers.

These pressures are becoming a major issue of concern for retailers in both shopping centres and high streets throughout the country.  And when the main retailers close, the rest of the shopping centre or high street will suffer.

We asked in our article of July last year whether e-retailers needed a high street presence.  The converse of this is whether old-style retailers, particularly those with no on-line presence, can afford to remain in their existing retail units.

Our experience is that some retailers are keeping branches open because landlords are unwilling to accept early surrenders or to negotiate reductions in rent.  But another more interesting reason why branches are kept open even when trading has reduced is because, in general, when stores are closed, larger retailers also see a reduction in their on-line business.  There is a connection between the amount of retail branches that a retail operator has and the amount of trade on-line. Visibility on the high street and in shopping centres increases a retailer’s on-line trade.

Monica Atwal

Managing Partner

View profile

+44 118 960 4605

Chambers and Partners

The Clarkslegal team are commercial and good to work with. They get what our business needs and tell me what I need to hear.

Some retail experts believe that the future for retail may lie in developing physical and on-line presences in tandem as many on-line customers prefer the ability to pick up on-line goods and return unwanted on-line orders to a physical store.  This has been seen in the development of “click and collect” by such operators as John Lewis, Waitrose and Boots the Chemist.

For retailers who solely work on-line, returns, which are a significant proportion of goods bought on-line, are a cost to the business whereas for physical stores, a return is always a potential new sale. Many customers who return goods bought on-line to a physical store will make a new purchase while they are there.

We have also recently heard the view from on-line retailers that their sales will rise in a locality if they open a physical branch there.  Evidence of this is Amazon opening its first retail unit in New York in 2014 and other units since then.

Will more and more retail units become vacant or change to dining options, charity shops and discount retailers if conventional retailers, especially those who do not have an on-line presence, decide that the costs of a retail unit are too large to carry?  Landlords of retail units may need to review their rental levels and be prepared to consider even shorter lease terms.

About this article


This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Monica Atwal

Managing Partner

View profile

+44 118 960 4605

About this article

Read, listen and watch our latest insights

  • 22 September 2023
  • Employment

Talking Employment Law: New family friendly rights

In this first podcast in the ‘Talking Employment Law’ series, Lucy Densham Brown and Rebecca Dowle, members of the employment team summarise some of the big new family-friendly Bills that are working their way through parliament.

  • 20 September 2023
  • Commercial Real Estate

Commercial buyers beware of residential Stamp Duty Land Tax

This article discusses a recent case in which a property buyer calculated the Stamp Duty Land Tax due on the purchase at a lower rate, due to the mixed-use purpose of the property.

  • 19 September 2023
  • Privacy and Data Protection

Organisations’ use of social media: Data protection

Social media applications (or commonly known as ‘apps’) are being developed all the time and we are constantly being introduced to new social media platforms, some of which take almost no time to gain huge popularity.

  • 14 September 2023
  • Immigration

Entrepreneurial Dreams: What is the Innovator Founder Visa?

In an era defined by innovation and entrepreneurship, the United Kingdom has made a substantial effort towards fostering its reputation as a global hub for start-ups and innovators. The introduction of the UK’s ‘Innovator Founder’ route has marked a pivotal moment in the country’s immigration policy.

  • 11 September 2023
  • Corporate and M&A

Changes to the tax treatment of Employee Ownership Trusts

The government published a consultation on 18 July 2023 seeking the public’s views on its proposals to reform the tax treatment of Employee Ownership Trusts and Employee Benefit Trusts. Parties are invited to express their opinions via email via the government website until the consultation closes on 25 September 2023.

  • 08 September 2023
  • Immigration

Navigating the Latest Immigration Rules for Overstayers in the UK: A Comprehensive Guide for 2023

Staying beyond the expiration of your UK visa is a serious matter that, in most cases, can result in significant and long-lasting repercussions.