A surge in retail deals in Reading and Caversham centres has been reported since the start of the first lockdown – all secured by a single agent.

Hicks Baker retail director Fiona Brownfoot says, since March 2020 she has done 22 deals in Reading and Caversham. In addition, she has completed further deals in Woodley, Wokingham and other areas of Greater Reading. Almost all are to independent operators and small chains.

Demand during the Covid period, she said, has been so strong she is busier than any time during the previous five years and plans to take on a further surveyor.

Ms Brownfoot believes the three elements she reported in her market commentary in March are still the drivers: reduced rents, more localised shopping and the availability of pre-fitted restaurants and shops.

She said: “The last 15 months has seen, what feels to be, a stampede of independent and small chain operators, taking advantage of the opportunities in the market that have opened up due, for the most part, to the major chains abandoning their leases.

“Of the deals referred to, some of the tenants who vacated were Pizza Express, Zizzi, Cath Kidston, Flight Centre and Brighthouse. So once the rents were rebased on these units, the prospect of being able to secure them has proved attractive to others.”

She says the switch from corporate occupiers to independents is driven by ‘entrepreneurial optimism’.

She added: “People are looking at this and saying ‘ok, where are the opportunities because life still has to go on?’ and people want to spend money and experience things.”

Deals completed – or soon to complete – by Hicks Baker:

Reading town centre

133 Friar Street to a tattoo artist

68 Broad Street to Mr Simms Sweet Shop

18 Bridge Street, Caversham to Dinkys sandwich bar

104 – 106 Friar Street Bru café

96 Broad Street to sports shoe retailer Up & Running

27 Queen Victoria Street to Donuterie

11-13 King’s Road to Madras Flavours

1D Queen’s Walk to ThaiGrr!

1B & 1C Queen’s Walk to Kourelou restaurant

99 Broad Street to Costa

55 St Mary’s Butts to Gourmet 4

81 Broad Street to Jollibee fast food

64-72 King’s Road (formerly Zizzi) to Coconut Tree restaurant

25 Queen Victoria Street to bubble tea vendor HiTea

125 Friar Street to a convenience store

30A Chain Street (formerly Tasting Table) under offer to a Japanese restaurant

22-32 Broad Street Mall to Mode Living

Caversham (St Martin’s Centre)

31 Church Street (next to Terry’s) to Dynamic Chiropractic

45-47 Church Street (former QS unit) to House of Cards (moving from nearby unit)

41A Church Street to Vegivores (extension to existing restaurant)

21 Church Street (next to Marc Antoni hairdresser) to Parkers estate agent


Former New Directions building in School Lane, to iST Fitness

Only the current House of Cards unit will be vacant in St Martin’s Centre and it will undergo alterations before being re-marketed.

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