It is not just the food outlets and convenience stores that are looking to increase their retail offerings — Metro Bank, Debenhams and Benefit Cosmetics are among the retailers capitalising on the rising popularity of the drive-thru model. It is easy to see the appeal to customers (no need to find a space, pay for parking or brave the British weather).
Besides convenience, there are other factors at play — the growing popularity of electric cars brings with it the possibility of installing charging points at roadside sites (cars can take upwards of 30 minutes to charge meaning drivers are spending more time at the outlets), while franchising arrangements with major retailers can create ‘destination shopping’ all in one place. Moreover, the limited number of sites offering the access and visibility from the road that retailers require has inevitably increased demand and, consequently, rents, which are defying the falling levels in towns and cities.
The rise of roadside retail is evolving in many different forms. McDonalds, Costa and Greggs are looking to capitalise on the potential of pod-style drive-thru's in unused car parking spaces in supermarkets and out-of-town retail parks, or in small developments. A growing number of retailers are realigning their business strategies with convenience and many have dipped their toe in with concessions or collaborations with operators in store. Others such as Mobile phone shops, travel agents and opticians have taken a bolder approach, albeit to a varied degree of success, and others have enhanced their traditional representation on prominent and busy roads, such as roll-over car washes and tyre and exhaust centres.