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Hammerson says footfall surges as shoppers return

Fri 16 April 2021 07:25 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Hammerson said footfall at its shopping centres was 60% higher than in the week after the first lockdown ended in June 2020 as shoppers returned to stores.

Non-essential shops were allowed to reopen in England and Wales on 12 April after three months, leading to queues outside some leading retailers. Struggling store groups and retail landlords are hoping for a spending splurge and a sustained recovery after a year of lockdowns.

Mark Bourgeois, Hammerson's managing director for the UK and Ireland, said: "It's been a really encouraging start. After an incredibly difficult year our teams have worked really impressively to get these places to be safe and welcoming for our brands and customers.

"In footfall terms we've been 60% up this week on the equivalent week after the June lockdown so clearly an encouraging number."

Bourgeois told the BBC's Today programme that shoppers felt safer because of the UK's successful vaccine programme and "there's more cash in people's pockets and they feel perhaps more confident to spend".

Hammerson's annual loss more than doubled in 2020 as rental income halved during the pandemic and it was forced to write down the value of its assets, which include Birmingham's Bullring and Brent Cross in London. Retail landlords have reduced rents and delayed collections to support struggling tenants with household names such as Debenhams and Topshop folding during the crisis.

"We are resetting our rents," Bourgeois said. "We reckon across the board in our business we'll probably reduce rents from the peak by about 30% so we're doing our bit, as are many landlords, to make sure we maintain our communities and maintain vibrancy in these centres."

Bourgeois said Hammerson was looking to "repurpose" space left by disappearing brands, including turning a Debenhams store in Leicester into 300 homes. Brands such as Samsung, Lego and Tesla are also looking for prime locations in city centres to show off their goods in physical stores.

"It's tough but certainly in the right locations and in these big experiential destinations the brands want to be there and we're encouraged by the conversations we're having."

Hammerson shares rose 1.6% to 39.84p at 09:19 BST.

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