I took a rare trip to Bexleyheath’s Broadway shopping centre recently. It’s been a while and the first thing that hit me is just how bland it now is inside after a refurbishment removed all the copper mirrored interior. It had character. Now it could just be any other suburban mall. Dartford, Erith or anywhere.
Another thing noticeable was two stores are closing imminently after chains went bust. One is fashion shop Select and the other Card Market. Nationwide problems are affecting the centre.
There’s other chains inside that are just about holding on and entering agreements with lenders to keep going. Burton’s is one with Philip Green’s Arcadia group suffering.
There’s also a big Boots branch and a separate opticians. Boots recently announced a program of 200 store closures and consolidation.
With so many retailers going under or asking for rent reductions, shopping centre owners face heavy hits on income.
One method to raise income is to build housing or offices above shops to create mixed-use developments. Lewisham shopping centre is going down that route. Will we see the same in Bexleyheath? Selling homes (or renting out long term) offers an additional revenue stream for owners and more customers for retailers below.
The centre did well to attract Morleys department store in a tough retail market – particularly for department stores.
The town centre is also still busy and bustling and development continues apace in some areas. But some tough times for the centre look likely in the short term at least. And long term could it radically change? One to keep an eye on.