Our inaugural report analysing the use of department store properties across the UK and Ireland has found over three-quarters are now currently occupied or have planning applications pending – revealing a more positive side to the tide of closures which have dogged the retail industry.

The report, Future: Department Stores, examines occupancy activity from 2015 to early Autumn this year in 917 department store locations across nine major retailers, including now defunct Debenhams and BHS, which accounted for 347 properties.

By early Autumn 2021, just under half (433) were still operating as department stores. However, almost another 20% had been given a new lease of life such as housing, offices, leisure or other types of retail, while a further 9% of sites had planning applications pending for redevelopment.

Up and down the country, mixed-use developments including entertainment, leisure and housing, along with enterprises supporting local business and culture are strong emerging trends. From a collaborative gallery space taking over a former Debenhams in Yarmouth; a husband and wife team who have revived a former Beales with 30 independent shops and entertainment spaces in Skegness; and pioneering property developers who have unlocked the potential of local people and community collaboration by reviving former department stores into cultural hubs in London and the South East.