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Behold, Investors Are Buying Shopping Centres Again

Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull

After a couple of years as an untouchable asset class, shopping centres are starting to draw investors again.

U.S. investor Ardent exchanged contracts Friday to buy the Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull in the West Midlands for £90M. 

Earlier last week, Landsec Chief Executive Mark Allan said the UK’s second-largest REIT is looking at buying prime shopping centres again. 

“With the scale of change that’s happened on those retail assets, we now think the balance of risk and reward has changed,” he said alongside full year results for the company. 

Ardent is a fund manager that targets opportunistic returns from repositioning assets in a variety of sectors. 

It has bought the 650K SF Touchwood centre from Lendlease Retail Partnership, a fund managed by Lendlease. The centre is anchored by the only John Lewis store in the region, Ardent said, and it includes the town’s sought-after Crescent Arcade. Tenancies at Touchwood also include brands such as Apple, H&M, Zara, Next and a Cineworld cinema.

It said Solihull is one of the wealthiest catchments in the West Midlands, and the Solihull Town Centre masterplan sets out ambitious plans to capitalise on the thriving local economy, all of which will benefit Touchwood.

The centre was bought for Ardent Strategic Fund I, which will have $530M to invest in UK real estate.

Shopping centre investment was already struggling in 2019, which was the worst year since 1995 in terms of deal volumes in the UK. But the impact of the coronavirus made a bad situation worse, and just £341M of shopping centres changed hands last year, a 69% drop on 2019 and the worst year on record, Savills data said.