The best kept secret in town!

By now if you’ve had a good look around our website, you should have a pretty good idea as to what we’re all about. Following on from our successes in Wandsworth, Rochdale, Slough, Bradford and Walton-on-Thames in 2021, our objectives for 2023 are being fuelled by a very clear and single-minded demand from new landlords. Put simply, we want to tap into this and replicate our winning Rainbow Rising formula with more former Debenhams stores by forging partnerships with new landlords and their agents. Specifically, we want to coordinate multiple reopening’s of more former Debenhams stores, by persuading different landlords to work together with us using a strategy of collective and cooperative, collaboration.

There are a number of reasons that this is important:

• Landlords will keep more of their business rates relief

• Landlords’ other associated costs will be reduced

• Reduction in landlord and asset manager management costs.

• Swifter reopening of stores, so business rates relief starts sooner

• Reductions in maintenance, security and insurance costs kick in earlier

• Reduction in the costs we charge per property

Of the 160+ Debenhams stores that have closed, we estimate about 120 still remain vacant with no concrete plans for their future. In the current economic climate, many landlords and their agents are understandably at a loss as to what best to do next. This is where we come in and I firmly believe Rainbow Rising represents the conduit to a highly versatile future for Britain’s high streets. I am not fazed by reports from experts such as Deloitte and others which forecast 30,000 high street closures in 2022.

Nor am I unduly worried about the impact this may have on jobs. We are evolving, not just our shopping habits but how and where we choose to spend our leisure time. Consequently, we are in the midst of a very exciting high street revolution and this is a good thing. It is a great opportunity to try out new ideas and initiatives and experiment with our town centres. To date, we are the only organisation to have successfully implemented a viable community based solution on a large department store scale, like Debenhams. We have learnt so much from the experience and have applied it to all our new re-openings. Over and above the need for a highly experienced team, you must have a vast network of charitable organisations on your books that are ready, primed and motivated to get involved.

This is the reason we have been able to scale up to department store level and implement so fast. But enough of the pitch, what does 2022 hold? More retail, conventional office and warehouse closures certainly. Yet this will be increasingly offset by imaginative new initiatives. Councils will not sit idly by and watch their town centres implode. Indeed, some like Rochdale Borough Council have seized the opportunity to purchase property in prime locations to secure future long-term income and exert greater control over their town centre redevelopment.

I firmly believe, as we begin to emerge from, manage and live with Covid, 2022 will see genuinely solid green shoots of sustainable regeneration – led by innovation. Whether it is Homebase moving into town centres to offer more green space for public use, or local community hubs like Rainbow Rising is planning for Woking, one thing is certain. Change is on the cards, and it will be very exciting!