The Leith Collective at Fort Kinnaird.
British Land has long supported local independents, start-ups and charities. When Covid struck and the Government launched its furlough scheme, there was a well-publicised boom in entrepreneurs starting businesses, many of which were making and creating at home. A new generation of grassroots retailers was established. So, we launched ‘Really Local Stores’, offering affordable retail space to small businesses, charities and community groups who source or manufacture hyper-locally and want to grow.
We now have around 150 local concessions operating across more than a dozen Really Local Stores at substantially discounted rates. This brings benefits to everyone – to our communities, to local entrepreneurs and to British Land and our customers.
How are Really Local Stores different?
Really Local Stores give small businesses and community interest groups who source or produce locally – typically within 50 miles – the chance to rent a shelf, hanging rail, wall or whole store at popular shopping destinations at a low or even no cost.
We offer very flexible commercial terms and arrange the whole leasing process to minimise complexity to attract smaller businesses. Many fledgling businesses simply don’t have the time, expertise, or resources to deal with lawyers, technical surveys, compliance assessments, shop designers and reams of other paperwork. So, we’ve removed barriers to entry to make life easier for them.
Throughout, we leverage our networks to provide support and advice, helping people with an embryonic retail business or community concept adjust to a commercial environment and thrive. Combined, our retail, centre management, marketing, and commercial managers – who all have a wealth of experience – help guide the small businesses and community interest groups that we work with.
We’re already seeing partners growing with us. Jasmine Tree Gifts and Luke Horton Art both started in our artisan market at Meadowhall, expanded into our independent Sheffield Store and have now moved into their own units within Meadowhall.
This isn’t philanthropy
Really Local Stores have generated over £1m net gain for British Land, through rent, service charge and business rates offsetting, and we expect this to grow.
For our customers, these local independents are a point of difference in our retail mix, something people can’t get anywhere else, and another reason to visit our places.
They also add authenticity. Our research shows that visitors who rate our social contribution highly are 33% more likely to recommend our places to friends, visit for 15% longer and spend 14% more in shops and restaurants. Really Local Stores are part of this credibility. They help us build local relationships and make a long-lasting, positive social impact in our communities. Plus, it’s hugely satisfying to nurture and bring small businesses forward!
Building on our track record
During Covid, our support for small business stood us head and shoulders above our peers. In March 2020, when my equivalents in other firms were chasing rent, my team and I were telephoning our smaller retailers to let them know we were releasing them from their rental obligations. We had people crying in relief down the phone! Some told us they wouldn’t have survived without it. These micro businesses are people’s livelihoods; they pay people’s mortgages or rent; they are not just a hobby. I can’t express how important our decision to provide rent relief was for them at that time.
We want local individuals and businesses to share in the success of our places. Of course, we have to strike a commercial balance – it’s not possible to do everything, everywhere, all the time – but the decisions we took during the pandemic were valuable and stood us and our partners in good stead.
Continuing to grow
Post-Covid, we weren’t sure how many makers and creators would sustain. But the reality is that demand for our Really Local Stores continues to grow. They’ve proved popular with both businesses and customers.
We’ve now rolled out the model across the UK, including at Ealing Broadway, Meadowhall in Sheffield and Old Market in Hereford and, most recently, at Fort Kinnaird in Edinburgh, where we’ve opened 6,500 sq ft of retail, gallery, event and community space with The Leith Collective.
More stores are planned – always with a focus on curating the right mix, so these start-ups and small businesses thrive. Our local teams are critical, connecting with local networks and starting conversations with entrepreneurs and charities. Our commercialisation and leasing team is committed to working with small businesses, start-ups and community interest groups to sustain their future with British Land. I’m excited see the concept mature.
Feedback from local partners
- Linda Mears of Jasmine Tree Gifts: “We would not be where we are without the support, encouragement and advice of the Meadowhall team, who have guided us on our retail journey and enabled us to achieve the success we are now experiencing, with a year-on-year increase in sales.”
- Sara Thomson of The Leith Collective: “Since being welcomed to Fort Kinnaird, it’s been a really positive experience for us as a small community interest company. British Land has been nothing but helpful and supportive, and we would not have been as successful without that support. We have learnt from each other. Retailers and Fort Kinnaird staff contact us when they have items to upcycle. Customers say they love having something different and we have noticed a huge shift in them re-using bags. We are proud to have been given the opportunity by British Land to help make the change, and encourage and educate on sustainability. It’s brilliant!”
- Luke Horton, artist: “Meadowhall has provided a platform for me that has ultimately increased my brand awareness, which in turn has aided the sustainability and development of the whole business.”
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