Big Interview: Russell Loveland, Senior Portfolio Director, Landsec

Russell Loveland joined Landsec almost a decade ago to lead the property firm's retail portfolio. He talks to Retail Gazette about his previous experience at Arcadia Group and fellow property firm Lend Lease, as well as his current role at Landsec.

Russell Loveland.

Russell Loveland began his career at Arcadia Group, where he worked in acquisitions and disposals, prior to his current role as Landsec’s senior portfolio director.

Speaking to Retail Gazette, Loveland described the transition to Landsec as a smooth process.

One of Loveland’s first tasks involved recruiting 50 people to build a large team. He said there was good insight to learn as a team from Landsec.

Loveland’s six-year experience at Arcadia saw him acquiring and disposing stores for all of the brands across the UK and Ireland. This gave him a “real appreciation” of the differences you can be made in the retail world through acquiring the right stores.

“You had to learn quite quickly how fast a city can change with good investment and good property decisions,” Loveland said.

“My experience at Arcadia gave me a real desire to want to influence how retail destinations worked and how they change rather than just acquiring individual stores for brands.”

Bluewater Shopping Centre

Loveland joined property firm Lend Lease in 2008 as senior asset manager and said he was lucky enough to take on the responsibility of Bluewater shopping centre – one of the UK’s leading retail destinations.

“One thing I brought to the firm was an understanding of how retailers think about acquiring space, which allowed me to build a relationship of trust with them,” Loveland said.

“My experience at Lend Lease was not only centred on brand relationships, but what was really important to actually curate that retail destination.

“We were trying to build together the right mix of products and brands that were going to appeal to our guests.”

In order to learn about what Landsec’s guests want, Loveland said the company sends online surveys and communicates with customers on social media.

“We use focus groups as well. It is that quantitative and qualitative side of the data that you need to be getting big online responses,” he said.

“There’s nothing like sitting down with a group of your guests and really questioning why do you say that? What is it about that?

“What that interaction does for us is really allow us to plan out and understand what there desires are.

“So what are we not providing for them? Where can we focus? What are their frustrations? Where do we need to invest in our centres? Do we need to upgrade our parking? What experiences are they looking for? So how can we try and provide that?

“It’s really important to us to understand what our guests are thinking and where their minds are starting to go because it allows us to potentially stay ahead of those trends.”

“The real focus is continuing to ensure our retail destinations remain relevant”

Loveland explained that the Covid-19 pandemic was a “reset” for the retail industry.

“There’s obviously the immediate financial hits that have been well documented for retailers and landlords,” he said.

“But all that did during the depths of the pandemic was really bring us closer together.

“We had to figure out a way to learn how to work with our brand and also what the right level of support package would look like for our retailers, to ensure that they’re successful with us in the future.

“Those relationships really allowed us to work with retailers, not just about how to solve an immediate issue, but how we work together moving forward.

“We also looked at the trends that have come out of the pandemic and how we can capitalise on that. There’s been more focus on support for local, independent brands.”

One key focus for Landsec is sustainability, according to Loveland.

“Sustainability really does run through everything we do,” he told Retail Gazette.

In May, Landsec appointed Jennie Colville as the new head of ESG and sustainability as it ramped up efforts to accelerate its sustainability strategy.

Colville joined to lead the company’s sustainability strategy and its implementation across a £10.8 billion portfolio.

“We have a strong focus on our corporate targets to reach net zero by 2030, and everything we do is influenced by that,” Loveland said.

“We have 100 per cent diversion of waste from landfill, we’ve installed the largest solar PV system, so that’s really focusing on the energy side.

“But part of our sustainability is also focusing on the social side as well. The social sustainability of our assets is almost more important for our big retail destinations.”

Loveland added that the rise of online retail does not threaten Landsec’s physical retail portfolio.

“The rise of online isn’t anything new,” he said.

“It continues to grow, but physical retail remains incredibly relevant to our retailers.

“The role that the store plays for our brands now isn’t just about the physical sales that go through, it’s about providing a showroom for that retailer to allow customers to connect to their brand to build loyalty.

“The true value of a store isn’t just about physical sales, it’s about all those additional benefits that it brings the retailer.

“We don’t feel threatened by the rise of online, we have to work with it.

“The real focus is continuing to make sure that our retail destinations remain relevant.”

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