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Hopes high for retail as Westfield owner's global comeback sees healthy footfall

Jun 3, 2020
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Shopping malls giant Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said it has made “strong progress” with the reopening for its shopping centres globally with 65 of its 90 shopping centres now operating. And early indications are that footfall and trade is stronger than expected in many countries.

Westfield London

That bodes well for the reopenings in London mid-month, as well as in Spain next week and in some still-locked-down US states, although dates for the latter haven’t been confirmed.

The rise to 65 centres being open follows lockdown easing by authorities in Los Angeles and France late last month. 

When the Spanish and UK properties open on June 8 and June 15, URW will have at least 87% of its shopping centres (approximately 80% by book value) open. And that number will rise as further US states and counties confirm the end of their restrictions. 

The firm has been able to operate some services during the lockdown with five of the US centres not yet open having been providing ‘curbside delivery’. 

Despite the reopenings, some of the tenants that add to malls’ appeal — such as bars, restaurants and cinemas — are still restricted in many locations. Yet URW’s centres have still seen footfall “returning progressively following reopening and generally above levels the group anticipated”. 

In Germany and Austria, where its centres have reopened since late April and early May, footfall grew to “at or above 80% of the prior year level”. Its Czech Republic assets have seen similar footfall levels over the past three weeks. 

In France, the centres that reopened on May 11 are now seeing footfall above 60% of this time last year, with Rennes Alma reaching 90%. 

The company is expecting to get a further French boost as restrictions on public transport are lifted from June 2. That's especially the case in Paris. Its centres in the Paris region only reopened on May 29 or 30, but footfall on Saturday May 30 was “encouraging” being around 65% of last year. 

The firm doesn’t have any hard sales data just yet but did say that “tenants have generally seen higher conversion rates and basket sizes than expected, with visitors returning for specific shopping objectives, resulting in a better anticipated sales impact relative to footfall”.

Overall, there’s expected to be a lot of pent-up demand being released as centres and stores return to some sort of normality.

URW CEO Christophe Cuvillier said: “While of course things are not yet back to normal, it is very encouraging to see so many of the group’s centres able to trade again. Health & beauty, Sports, Home equipment and Children’s clothing are believed to be among the best performing segments.”

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