A Kodak Moment On The High Street?

The wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of commercial landlords faced with a flurry of CVAs by a variety of challenged retail outlets has generated little sympathy and no small degree of amusement. After years of ruling the roost over retailers with upward only rent reviews, pernicious repairing and other obligations and an intransigence to the problems facing their tenants, the boot may not be on the other foot just yet but it may well be heading that way.

True it is that many retail businesses face problems of their own making, such as over expansion, too much debt, abject stock control, online shopping and, in the case of some restaurant chains, selling overpriced average to sub-average grub. So to that extent, landlords can say that they are having to bear burdens not of their making.

None of that, however, can mask the huge changes in retail practices led by online shopping and the effect that it has had on the High Street and in retail malls and parks across the country and will continue to have. A few years ago the focus of the national press in stories about this was on the more economically challenged parts of the country. But increasingly, “Retail Blight” is affecting towns and cities in more affluent parts of the the country including leafy ’burbs around London and the Home Counties. Big names have gone to the wall and more look like following. Add a dash of Brexit uncertainty and there may yet come a time when a CVA as opposed to administration or liquidation is a blessed relief.

Commercial landlords large and small cannot afford to ignore what appear to be irreversible trends in shopping habits and the effect it is having on their tenants. Most people are familiar with the story about Kodak, who, faced with the digitial camera tsunami, stuck their hands in the sand and thought it would not affect them or old school photography. They were wrong and paid the price.

There is a real and present need for landlords and tenants to resolve difficult and seemingly intractable situations in a way that works for them both and provides workable and flexible solutions, either temporarily or in the long-term. And this is where mediation in general and www.mcrmediation.com in particular comes in, enabling parties to arrive at creative solutions outwith the legal straightjacket of commercial leases, insolvency remedies and other forms of litigation. Already, more far sighted landlords and tenants, large and small, are going down this road and more will surely follow.