Context 171 - March 2022

14 C O N T E X T 1 7 1 : M A R C H 2 0 2 2 ALLISON ORR and JAMES WHITE All change on the high street Research shows, not the death of the high street, but a complex picture with falling rents, more land uses, flexibility and innovation offering some hope for the future. The struggles faced by the UK retail industry are well documented. Unsustainable operating costs, ascendant online technology, changing consumer habits and the uncertainty of the pandemic have precipitated the closure of numerous well-known shops and driven a surge in vacancies on the high street and in shopping centres. However, today’s challenges are not entirely new. The retail market is dynamic and often cut-throat, and the fickle nature of consumers means that city centre retailing is always in a state of flux. What is different this time is the sheer scale of closures and redundant space.With the prospect of emerging from the pandemic, the search for innovative solutions that address this decline has become an urgent preoccupation of policymakers, landowners and other actors who have a stake in the future of our city centres. Researchers funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) at the University of Glasgow and University of Sheffield have been investigating how urban retailing centres have been adapting to changing market conditions over the past 20 years as part of a project called REPAIR (Real Estate, Place Adaptation and Innovation within an integrated Retailing system). Since 2018 we have been piecing together a series of linked datasets on landownership The refurbished 19th-century Paragon Arcade in Hull successfully specialises in independent retailing.