A unanimous decision by Westminster City Council in October 2020 could change the look – and the purpose – of our High Streets for years to come, with a very different approach to shop fit out projects. The council’s planning subcommittee granted conditional planning permission for The John Lewis Partnership to convert 45% of its Oxford Street shop floor into office space.

The iconic department store could soon be filled with new furniture and computer tech but not to buy. Flagging sales and the coronavirus have severely dented the Partnership’s profits (there was actually a pre-tax loss of £635 million for the interim period ending 25th July 2020), and converting its shop interior design into offices is part of a diversification plan designed to claw back £200 million by 2023.

Details at the time of the decision included the creation of a new office entrance on the corner of Holles Street and Cavendish Square, as well as a reconfiguration of space so all of John Lewis’s goods could be sold from just four floors – the basement, ground, first and second.

The changing dynamics of the High Street – with the Arcadia Group and Debenhams almost certainly disappearing from shopping centres and our most famous retail thoroughfares – will yield a number of opportunities to repurpose premises. Those in prime positions do lend themselves to office space, shared hubs or even live/work schemes, with local planning departments showing compassion when it comes to business health.

If you would like an appraisal of a retail space you own, with a view to a change of usage application or a diversification programme, please get in touch. We can show you what’s possible when downsizing your square footage, and we will illustrate how to maximize your yields if you want to fit out and sublet space to others.