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The Retail Apocalypse?

Cushman & Wakefield's Head of Retail Development, John Percy, joined our 'Art Investment and Cities' Forum to discuss whether arts and culture can help avert a retail apocalypse. He contributed alongside the Bracknell Forest Council Chief Executive, Tim Wheadon, Stanhope PLC's Martyn Chase, Benoy's Robert Bentley, and Michael Sheridan of retail designers Sheridan & Co.

John Percy is a professional adviser on the regeneration of Bracknell's town centre and in particular on the successful launch of the new shopping experience called The Lexicon. He talked about the next phases of redevelopment for the town and which elements might grow and sustain its success as a destination.

After a challenging Christmas across Europe, retailers, especially in the mid-market have been reported to be under pressure or even going out of business. According to the BBC, traditional brands have done better by embracing new experiential strategies. For example, the bookseller, Indigo in Canada has achieved more than its rivals Borders and Barnes & Noble through becoming a lifestyle brand and employing highly trained staff.

John explains that beyond shops, restaurants will continue to be important to creating strong town centres, but there also a need to inject places with ' a bit of buzz and excitement and this is where art and culture comes in'. Attractions which are not expensive but have the power to draw in workers from surrounding offices to spend time in the centre, are essential, he comments.

The phrase 'culturally self-confident' John says came out of the development of the town's 2002 Master Plan and is an excellent strap line for the future.

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