June 23, 2021

Can the Pandemic Rescue Britain’s Shopping Areas? This Town Hopes So.

Nearly a decade ago, a government-ordered review found that Britain’s so-called high streets — the retail bedrocks of the country’s town and city centers, comparable to America’s main streets — had reached a “crisis point.” Since then things have only gotten worse, as lockdowns and a surge in online shopping over the last year in response to the pandemic have accelerated the downward spiral of brick-and-mortar retailing. In 2020, a record number of shops closed.

To rescue high streets, an unlikely combination of vested interests are coming together. Giant asset managers and landlords are taking risks to revive their downtrodden investments, shoppers and businesses are reappearing from the pandemic newly interested in their local areas, and town officials are ready to spend heavily to spread confidence.

Enough confidence for Ms. Dean, and others, to bet their livelihoods on the high streets’ revival.

Wild Roots is one of 10 recently opened businesses on Kingland Crescent that are operating rent-free as part of a redevelopment project by the property’s owner, the giant London-based asset manager Legal General Investment Management, a unit of the country’s largest corporate pension manager with more than 1 trillion pounds in assets. For two years, the businesses do not have to pay rent or a type of local property tax known as business rates.

“Poole really needs this,” said Ms. Dean, who decided to pursue her love of greenery after being laid off from her events manager job in the first six months of the pandemic. The property had been empty for six years; she was handed the shop’s keys in December.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/04/business/can-the-pandemic-rescue-britains-shopping-areas-this-town-hopes-so.html

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