Shaftesbury enjoys West End success but retail sector challenges remain
The UK retail sector may be weak, but demand is staying strong in London with major landlord Shaftesbury delivering a trading update on Friday for the six months to September 27. But there were caveats to its rosy outlook.
The Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which owns a 15-acre portfolio in London's West End, said that it has seen “robust trading and footfall across [its] portfolio over the summer” with “healthy” demand for space and occupancy remaining high.
Its larger retail schemes are also seeing “good leasing progress”. Central Cross is 76% let or under offer, and 57 Broadwick Street is fully let.
CEO Brian Bickell said that despite well-publicised uncertainties affecting business confidence nationally, “London's West End economy continues to be resilient. Trading across our shops has been robust over the summer months.”
The trust has benefited from its portfolio being focused on an area that has a large working population and “exceptional” numbers of domestic and international visitors that “are key ingredients of its thriving seven-days-a-week economy.” It said that “this unique combination of features provides a considerable degree of insulation from UK-wide challenges.”
However, the situation isn't completely perfect with Shaftesbury saying that “the current climate is causing prospective occupiers for larger space to be cautious”. And while demand for its “smaller, regular space continues to be healthy, the average time to conclude lettings has increased slightly from six weeks last year to around eight weeks, currently.”
And the challenges facing the fashion retail sector are also clearly affecting the trust. It called out the fact that many of its biggest successes in the past six months have been in the food and beverage area. And while Thomas Neal’s Warehouse in Covent Garden is “under offer”, it added that “the proposed letting to an international retailer with whom we had agreed terms has not proceeded.” Instead, it’s under offer to “an innovative UK-based food-led retail concept.”
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