More than 200 UK shopping centres are ‘in crisis’

More than 200 UK shopping centres are in danger of falling into administration, experts are warning. Analyst Nelson Blackley said the demise of “major anchor stores” such as BHS and Toys R Us, and the rise of online retail, had caused a “downward spiral”.

Many of the at-risk centres are owned by US private equity firms under deals that will need refinancing. “If centres close, particularly in small towns, it will be catastrophic,” Mr Blackley warned.

The Department for Communities said it was “committed to helping communities adapt”. Mr Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, said the UK had an excess of shopping centres with similar retail offerings.

“We have too many of them, doing exactly the same – the same range of stores and products – and basically that’s not attractive,” he said. “New data suggests over 200 shopping centres in the UK are in danger of falling into administration, unless their owners secure fresh funding.”

He added the growth of online retail in the UK – on sites such as Amazon – had been faster than in almost any other retail market in the world.

“If the major anchor store moves out, that has a halo effect on other stores in that centre. It’s a downward spiral and you can’t fill shopping centres with nail bars and vape shops.”

Mr Blackley, who is based at Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Business School, pointed to research in the Financial Times that suggested about £2.5bn worth of shopping centres and retail parks are up for sale in towns and cities across the UK.

“Some of this marketing is unofficial and not in the public domain,” he said. “It’s a trend that’s moving very quickly. You don’t necessarily want to be in the business of owning shopping centres at the moment.

“People are suggesting a number of leading national retailers are on the edge and may close and that would bring shopping centres down with them.

“The collapse of BHS, two years ago, left empty units in around 200 shopping centres and more than half of those large, empty units have not yet been filled.”