Polly Troughton, head of Retail Parks and Leisure at Land Securities, explores the emerging split in out-of-town retail between convenience and shopping parks

Whisper it quietly, but the out-of-town retail sector is splitting in two: those parks that require dominance and experience to succeed in their catchment – much in the same way as a shopping centre – and those parks that fulfil the convenience model.

Position your park well and you are set to succeed, but fail to recognise the difference and you could be investing significant capital at a “convenience park”, or underinvesting in a “shopping park”.

At Land Securities, it is a trend we have recognised for some time. Increasingly, we are seeing a division between shopping parks and convenience parks. Shopping parks are increasingly resembling shopping centres. Fashion clusters, new retailers, modern store formats, wifi, an attractive shopping environment and a better food and beverage mix are providing shoppers with choice and cause to visit and stay longer.

At Westwood Cross in Kent, we have a completely integrated retail and leisure destination with over 50 stores, cafes and restaurants. The scheme is anchored through the day with Next, Primark and Debenhams and the trading hours for the retailers are extended with a complementary leisure offer in the form of a 10-screen Vue cinema.

Innovation is key for shopping parks and for us that has meant working closely with leading retailers to pioneer new store formats that reflect their changing strategies. In Poole, we developed the first ever John Lewis At Home, while in Chesterfield we partnered with Debenhams to create their first ever shopping park store. Both have proved highly successful and been rolled out to other locations.

Allied to such innovation has been our early recognition of the rise and rise of eating out, especially the family dining segment. Despite the recession, leisure and dining was one of the few retail markets that experienced growth.

Slowly but surely British eating habits have changed. Families eating together at home may happen less, but it has to some extent shifted so now it is a leisure activity where someone else is doing the cooking. And of course, accompanying this trend is the crucial increase in dwell time and spend, coveted by retailers and landlords.

In convenience parks the dynamic is very different, it is all about quick and efficient transactions, primarily based on the car. Free car parking, better road access, click and collect designed into stores and longer opening hours are the essentials. Today’s shoppers are setting a high benchmark for convenience and those that fail are quickly found out. In this space, the car is still key and to thrive, landlords have to invest in their infrastructure to keep it current and competitive.

It is this combination of innovation and investment that property owners will need to focus on to succeed in today’s high-speed revolution. At Land Securities we have an appetite for such change. We have a partnership with TrueStart, a retail innovation hub based in Victoria. Focused on retail, the aim is to trial new initiatives that benefit our retail partners first with new technology.

Elsewhere on our estate we have partnered with Ocado at Hatfield, for a click and collect service for groceries. In this six month trial, we have designated an area of car park for customers to park and have the boot of their car loaded “pit-stop” style.

New thinking, partnership with retailers, nimble management – all vital elements in fermenting the quiet revolution.