The demise of the Great British High Street is gathering pace. There was a time when a top name was a gold-plated covenant and the valuation of retail property was simple. That’s no longer the case, as old-established names like BHS and Woolworths have disappeared from the scene. Surviving retailers like Marks & Spencer, New Look and House of Fraser are closing stores across the nation. The same applies to restaurants like Prezzo, for example. Banks are also closing branches and even Oxfam is planning to close some charity shops. The abandoned car park of Toys R Us in Tilling Road, Brent Cross, North London has become a huge fly tipping site.

This phenomenon has also affected small independent stores. Corner shops have been hit by the proliferation of mini-supermarkets owned by the major chains. The small shop with flats above, once a guaranteed income provider is no longer an investment of choice.

The convenience and speed of home deliveries has played a large part in this change. 85% of UK consumers aged 18 or over already shop on the internet. According to Conlumino/Webloyalty, 31% of high street stores will close by 2020. The Javelin Group predicts that 34% of retail sales will grow to 34% by 2020. The likes of Deliveroo and Just Eat are transforming the take-away market, giving customers who are time-poor and cash-rich greater and greater choice.

How will this affect the market? A sign of the times is the appearance of Amazon lockers in branches of Morrisons, as they hope to piggyback on on-line sales. Chain stores may get smaller as the bulk of stock will be available on a click and collect basis. Some individual stores may survive if they offer customers something to make the “shopping experience” more exciting. But large department stores may go the way of the dinosaurs and new uses will need to be found to fill the empty buildings. Possibly there may be a new wave of permitted development, allowing upper floors to be changed to apartments or hotels. They could also provide cheaper office space in areas where public transport connections are good.

House prices, too, will be affected. Whereas proximity to shopping was once a major factor, in some cases speed of internet connections may be more important. With technology making working from home become more prevalent, people may be happier to move to more remote areas with limited local shopping, but housing is more affordable as they can use the internet for shopping. Fewer homes were sold in London last year than anywhere else in England and Wales, according to an analysis of Land Registry data by Knight Frank. Prices are moving upwards in the North of England and Scotland.

Working at home gives the freedom for people to move where housing is more affordable and where state schools may both be better and less difficult to get into.

Anne Ashworth, Property and Personal Finance Editor of The Times has said than an unexpected side-effect of the slump in property transactions in London (sales in February were down 23% over a year) has been a rise in the popularity of the rental second home used for holidays and weekends; as well as getting a feel of what it would be like to live out of a major city.

In underwriting and risk assessment, access to information is easier, making informed decisions more likely. In this respect, experience and artificial intelligence can work hand-in-hand to produce the best result. Availability of credit reference and fraud prevention systems can likewise help to prevent costly errors.

It’s a new world of wonders out there and e-commerce and digital information is growing daily. Consumers are more and more likely to make decisions and access information on mobile devices. Unfortunately, there is also a new breed of digital criminals whose nefarious skills become ever greater.

Lenders should be aware of both the opportunities and problems this presents and embrace the new age with confidence.

Benson Hersch, CEO of the ASTL

A version of this article appeared in the July edition of Mortgage Introducer