Amidst the keynote speeches, champagne receptions and bizarre promotional outfits, the second day of BCSC 2012 gave an insight into how the market currently sees itself, and where it needs to get to in order to ensure that UK retail triumphs after tough recent times.
The EC Harris and Land Securities-led seminar on the future of retail construction pointed to masterplanning and phasing as crucial elements in delivering viable, successful schemes; as a phased scheme can more easily adapt to an ever-evolving market. Whilst it is almost impossible to future-proof large-scale schemes, more flexible planning can certainly mitigate the majority of inherent development risks.
BCSC chief executive Peter Drummond led his own seminar on the prospect of town centre recovery, and nailed his colours firmly to the Portas mast, decrying LXB Retail Director Phil Wrigley's view that the high street is 'moribund' as being almost laughable.
There was little disagreement in the room, as various speakers endorsed the ideas in the Portas Review, but questioned how effective it would be without ample financial backing and a national planning framework that encourages, rather than stymies, more localised development.
The main element running through the seminars today has been the urge to adapt to the circumstances that have permanently changed the way people shop. To look beyond simply providing A1 retail developments, and give consumers reasons to shop offline.
Developers and retailers seem hardened by the harsh lessons given to them over the last few years, which have forced re-evaluation throughout the entire market. Today, it seemed like that re-evaluation was starting to grow into positive ideas about how to take retail back to a healthy place, and more importantly, keep it there.