Meet our experts
Head of Retail and Futuring
Legal & General Investment Management Real Assets
With the much-anticipated reopening of shops fast approaching, following the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown, business owners will be preparing to welcome locals back into their stores. And for one street in Poole, the 2021 easing of lockdown will be particularly exciting.
Poole’s Kingland Crescent has been completely revamped as part of Legal & General Investment Management’s (LGIM’s) strategy to re-invent and re-position its retail offering, which includes the adjacent Dolphin Shopping Centre. This new approach re-focuses the value on treating the occupier as a partner, and the end consumer as a Legal & General customer, and sitting local and national brands together. “It’s this notion of moving from historically being a librarian, which is all about collecting rent, filling shops and cleaning our assets, to becoming an editor, making sure we have the right content at the right time and in the right place,” explains Denz Ibrahim, Head of Retail & Futuring, LGIM Real Assets.
In the first phase of the Poole programme, we have offered stripped back, white-boxed retail units in the KINGLAND development to 10 start-up and independent Dorset-based businesses, freeing them of rent and business rates for two years and driving a creative and local focus. “We need to have much more flexible leases to be able to give these creative start-ups the opportunity to get access to these spaces and grow with us, but also give us as the landlord an opportunity to become more agile in how we curate our environments,” explains Ibrahim. “Our town centres have always played a huge role in how people live, work and play – our focus is how we successfully curate spaces that reconnect people with place. The pandemic has simply accelerated this viewpoint.”
One of the KINGLAND retail units has been provided to Pen Gallery, a non-profit gallery, exhibition space and shop that aims to unite the Bournemouth community and promote local talent, as well as offering community events for children. All artists either live locally or have links to the area. For gallery owner Emma Rowland, this is integral to the city’s regeneration and reducing the drain of local talent. “You get a lot of people who study here, move here, and then end up leaving because there isn’t really that opportunity for them, so it’s really important to create opportunities on our doorstep,” she explains.
You get a lot of people who study here, move here, and then end up leaving because there isn’t really that opportunity for them, so it’s really important to create opportunities on our doorstep.
To recognise local talent and tap into local opportunities, we need truly local teams. “The rule is that we have to have a lot more people who live and breathe the town,” explains Ibrahim. “We hired a creative director who was born and bred in Dorset and was massively connected to all KINGLAND tenants, and we’ve just brought in a new digital agency who all graduated from Bournemouth University.” Having local people generate this content and engagement is clearly working – since the launch of KINGLAND, LGIM Real Asset’s social traffic has increased by 490%.
In 2020, the UK economy shrank by a record 9.9%, more than twice as much as the previous annual fall on record.1 The Bank of England has stated that smaller businesses are more likely to operate in areas affected by COVID-19, and as such are predicted to face an aggregate cash-flow deficit of £40–£70 billion.2 In other words, if we want small businesses to survive and be built on the other side of the pandemic, this is where investments need to focus. “It physically would not be possible for me to pay rent prices and business rates with what they’re set at currently, particularly at this location, bang on the high street and by the Dolphin Shopping Centre. There’s just no way,” says Rowland.
What’s more, projects like this help to spread UK-wide investment – something we’re passionate about ensuring is spread geographically equally as the Government aims to level-up the UK, and something we’re tracking using our new Rebuilding Britain Index. Ibrahim gives the example of local resident ‘Lucy’. “Let’s say Lucy comes into the Dolphin Centre’s brand-new Skills & Learning School, learns hairdressing and then launches a market stall in the heart of the centre. She then expands to a boutique shop, taking on a Flexible Partnerships Model lease, and develops her brand through the SME co-working space we’re launching, rents a desk and builds her network and community from there. Times that by 20 new ideas per year, and you’ve built an incredible incubator of talent in the heart of the town.”
Ibrahim adds: “Interestingly, this is exactly the sort of business the global brands want to sit next to, shifting the traditional ‘shopping centre’ beyond just solely shopping and towards discovering, learning, working and sharing.
“As retail owners, we want healthy, successful and profitable businesses within our schemes. By bringing 10 new shops and injecting vibrancy and experience into the area, we are driving footfall and delivering value to KINGLAND and the neighbouring Dolphin Centre. Consumers want that experience, localism and convenience.”