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Oct 28, 2021
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URW sees improving malls trend, fashion recovery continues

Oct 28, 2021

Shopping malls giant Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) released its results for the third quarter on Thursday and said that the reopening in mainland Europe has driven an ongoing recovery with tenant sales at continuing European centres up 6% versus Q3 2020.


Importantly, those sales are also at 92% of 2019 levels, although footfall is only at 80%, suggesting that those people who are shopping in physical stores are buying more.

Looking at individual countries, French footfall was 81% of 2019 levels in Q3 (the three months to September 30) with tenant sales at 91.2%; for the UK the figures were 75.2% and 80.1%, respectively; for Germany they were 80.2% and 90.1%; and for Spain they were 79.4% and 85.6%.

Q3 also saw the US recovery accelerating with tenant sales there actually reaching 102% of 2019 levels and at its flagship malls outside of the key city centres they were up 108%.

The company also cited sustained leasing activity with 518 deals during the quarter bringing bringing the total for the year to date (YTD) up to 1,736 deals. That's 23% ahead of 2020 and running level with 2019.

New rents on mainland European deals YTD are close to passing rents and rent collection improved to 88% for Q3, up from 78% for Q1 and 80% for Q2.

Overall vacancy levels also improved 7.9% (vs 8.9% for the first half). That included a strong vacancy improvement in the US from 14.% to 11.8% with vacancies also down in Europe at 4.9% (vs 5% in H1). In the UK, vacancies also improved, falling to 11.8% from 12.2%.

And adjusted recurring earnings per share are expected to be at least €6.75, slightly above 2020, adjusted for disposals.

That was the good news, but it’s clear that the company still has a way to go before it’s fully back to ‘normal’. For instance, total turnover fell 15.6% to €1.61 billion year-on-year in the first three quarters, with shopping centre turnover down 11.9% to €1.248 billion. Shopping centre gross rental income was down 14% to €1.612 billion for the nine months. 

The company didn’t break out the Q3 figures separately, but it said those falls were largely due to restrictions during the first half, suggesting Q3 could have been much better.

The largest negative impact was recorded in Germany (-28.9%), as a result of longer and more impactful Covid restrictions in the first half, and in France (-25.8%), driven by the disposal of five French assets in 2020. The UK was also down 8.2%. The regions with negative performance were partly offset by Austria (+16.2%) and The Netherlands (+14.5%), driven by the contribution from the opening of Westfield Mall of the Netherlands.

URW also said that for the overall Q3 period, the top performing categories in Europe compared to 2019 were Jewellery (+1.1%), Sport (-1.5%), Home (-4%) and Health and Beauty (-4.1%). Fashion, the largest category, was weaker but saw an improving trend (-11.7% vs -16.4% in June). 

The strong recovery in sales in the US has particularly been seen in Luxury (+46.6%), Gifts (+27.3%), Home (+26.3%), Sport (+26.2%) and Jewellery (+26.0%) in Q3. Fashion sales exceeded pre-Covid levels in the quarter (+2% vs -4% in June). In addition, the new Westfield Mall of the Netherlands continued its strong opening with 1.2 million visits a month in Q3.

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