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Aviva Investors will be joining our Leeds event 'Levelling Up and UK cities'

T K Maxx (above) is one of the main retailers located on the Crown Point Shopping Centre, Leeds - owned jointly by The Crown Estate and Aviva Investors

The future of retail will be a topic to be featured at our levelling up debates in Leeds this May. Questions are still being asked post pandemic on whether the numbers of visitors are returning to city centres at the same level for shopping or entertainment, compared to those before the outbreak of Covid-19.

Shopping centres on the outskirts of cities tended to show more buoyant activity during the pandemic as people felt safer driving in their cars to pick up goods compared to being on foot in city centres. Aviva Investors noted that The Crown Point shopping centre, on the edge of Leeds, did well during the pandemic. Now with more food outlets, health facilities and medical testing centres planned, it is building up its offer for the local community within 20 minutes of Crown Point.

Aviva Investors' Director, Asset Management in the Real Assets Division, Andrew Coles, who will be joining our Leeds forum next month, commented that the pandemic has given a new lease of life to fringe of city centre shopping centres. He said that the current strategy for Crown Point Leeds, which is co-owned with the Crown Estate, is to serve the local community more effectively with the addition of healthcare provision such as a diagnostics testing centre as well as more food shops. Fitness facilities are also a promising trend for the centre with Andrew warning that it was important not just to concentrate on clothes outlets.

On city centre shopping, there has been concern among city planners since the pandemic, that the number of office workers not returning, will have a large impact on the sustainability of retail and also the day to night entertainment sector. DLA Piper, the global law firm is investing in new offices in the centre of Leeds and is confident that its employees will want to come back to work with state-of-the-art facilities on offer. This could lead to a spilling over of time spent after work in the city centre.

The success of out of town retail centres may not be affected in the long term but the public has been determined to shop online, in a trend that started well before the pandemic began. Which elements will draw shoppers back to all retail outlets continues to be analysed, with major names in retail disappearing from the high street throughout the UK, but with major companies like IKEA modifying strategy by opening smaller city centre stores.

Leeds City Council was faced with a major report last July that suggested the future of the city centre was not about shops. Suggestions for economic growth in the centre were around a diverse mix of uses and more green spaces. A major concern was improvement in transport, but there were significant opportunities, it was thought, for more culture and leisure.

Andrew Coles is a retail and leisure focused senior asset manager responsible for the asset management strategy and investment performance of properties within a range of sectors and cities.

Aviva Investors is the global asset management business of Aviva Plc. It operates in 14 countries with assets under management of £268 billion (as at 31 December 2021)


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