LONDON: The growth of online shopping has the paradoxical potential to save failing retail parks according to new research.

An analysis of more than 1,500 UK shopping locations by the Local Data Company found an increasing polarisation between those retail parks that were doing well and those that were performing poorly and suggested that parks had been more badly affected by online shopping than the high street.

A major issue for the older out-of-town parks has been the decline or disappearance of some of their best tenants – big box stores selling electrical goods, home entertainment items and domestic white goods – much of whose custom has migrated to the web.

These retailers have been "caught like rabbits in the headlights", Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company, told the Financial Times.

The impact has been especially hard on smaller parks, which have found themselves in a spiral of decline. Hopkinson noted the knock-on effects when retailers shutting up shop were not replaced and footfall declined.

"Retailers stuck on these parks will not be spending money refitting their stores, making them a less attractive destination for consumers," he said. "At some stage, you are going to reach the point of no return."

Larger parks were faring better, particularly those anchored by high street retailers offering click-and-collect services. Local Data Company also found that those hosting fashion brands and places to eat and drink performed better.

One retail park owner confirmed the analysis. Andrew Jones, chief executive of LondonMetric, argued that the convenience of click-and-collect was a major benefit.

"Retailers are already having problems with internet delivery this Christmas," he said. "Click and collect gives you near-instant gratification, and unlike the high street you can park outside at surface level, and it's free."

The demise of general stores such as Woolworth has been exploited on the high street by a new wave of discount retailers like Poundland and B&M which have taken over large empty shops.

These outlets are now moving out into what Hopkinson termed "value retail parks" which he said had become a "destination for bargain hunting".

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff