From crinkly sheds to fashion parks: the role of financial investment in the transformation of retail parks
The retail park is one of the most ubiquitous and significant forms of off-centre retailing in the UK. Originally designed as low-cost accommodation for 'bulky goods', retail parks now include high-rent 'fashion parks' which are eagerly sought by institutional investors for long-term ownership. This paper explains why retail-park ownership, originating in the early 1980s in one-off schemes by locally based property developers, has become the province of major property companies, financial institutions, and asset managers. Growth in rents and capital values has been fuelled by increasing institutional investment, and by fears of a growing scarcity of high-quality developments because of town-planning restrictions. This pressure is now leading to attempts to realize the full capital value of older developments, through processes of 'active management' by the new breed of retail-park owners. In turn, this is leading to increasingly rapid changes of retail occupiers, involving in some cases the expulsion of the original 'bulky goods' retailers for whom retail parks were created. A parallel with the 'Wheel of Retailing' model of institutional change is suggested.
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