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Can Food Banks Save Shopping Centres? Ellandi Calls For A Big Rethink

The Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland

Shopping centre specialist Ellandi said hosting alternative uses like food banks could be part of the answer for some local shopping malls.

The call for shopping centres to diversify into community hubs in order to survive comes as the asset manager ponders deadly threats to UK shopping malls. Last week those threats crystallised as the UK saw its first major shopping centre shut its doors forever.

MCR Property decided to close the 163K SF Wheatsheaf centre in Rochdale after a string of major tenants pulled out or faced administration.

Ellandi head of investment Jonathan Cole said creating a reliable income stream from shopping centres required more community engagement, more convenience and better affordability. For local centres this in turn depends on non-retail, and sometimes non-commercial, use.

“To address both the oversupply of retail and needs of shoppers, centres can be hubs for inclusion, access and support — from healthy living services to youth clubs, from libraries to incubator space, and from mental health charity projects to food banks. All these provide reasons to visit and come together, while creating genuine social impact,” Cole told Bisnow.

“What the future looks like for shopping centres will naturally vary for each location, but there are trends. We continue to see polarisation between the best regional shopping destinations, for experience and aspiration, and local centres for affordability, convenience and community engagement. The big experiences need to be worth the drive and provide something different from online. The local offerings need to be hassle free, combine services and essential goods, and relate to the community’s needs.

“Owners or lender can still optimise value and operational success by identifying purpose, and really engaging with the tenants, shoppers and local authorities."