August 24, 2021
The volume of retail sales dropped 2.5% in July compared with the previous month, according to ONS data. Shoppers spent less on groceries, with sales falling 1.5%, and more on going out, as restrictions on hospitality lifted further. Heavy rain in July disrupted travel, which decreased fuel sales for the first time since February. Additionally, “rising Covid-19 cases… prompted some households to steer clear of shops and forced others into self-isolation”, said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. However, ING economist James Smith said: “We’re not convinced July’s fall in UK retail sales can be put down to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. Retail’s latest fall may be down to a rebalancing towards services after lockdowns.”
Footfall and rent collection have both increased in the West End, according to Shaftesbury. In a trading update covering the period from 1st April 2021 to 20th August 2021, the commercial landlord said that weekly footfall is now between 50-60% of pre-pandemic levels. While the hospitality industry is still facing staff shortages and disruptions to business following Track and Trace notifications, hospitality and leisure tenants in the area continued to see a recovery in trading supported by outdoor dining spaces in the Westminster and Camden council areas. As autumn approaches, turnover-based rents have become more popular in the area, which Peel Hunt analyst Matthew Saperia believes has helped keep vacancy rates relatively low among Shaftesbury’s tenants. He said: “Shaftesbury has publicly stated that the old [lease] model is broken and they will provide a more equitable agreement between landlord and tenant.”
Fulham Shore, the owner of Franco Manca and The Real Greek, is expecting sales to remain above 2019 levels until Christmas, supporting its expansion plans. Pent-up demand and a rise in delivery orders contributed to a 5% increase in like-for-like sales at Franco Manca compared with the same period in 2019, and a 15% increase in like-for-like sales at The Real Greek for the same period. The group aims to open 10 restaurants by the end of the year, with 125 possible locations for Franco Manca and 30 for The Real Greek identified for future openings. They aim to have 230 restaurants overall within the next seven years.
Nightclub operator Rekom UK has reported a strong return to clubs, with trading up 150% on 2019 figures. Chief executive Peter Marks attributed the rise in drink sales and dwell time to 18 and 19 year-olds keen to have their first clubbing experience after lockdown. He added: “We are experiencing record trading. Our target market clearly want to get on with their lives and with more than 71% of the 15 to 25 demographic reported as having had Covid already, the vaccination programme and the low levels of personal risk you can see why.” Rekom has increased the frequency of cleaning schedules across their 42 sites and introduced sanitisation stations and air ventilation systems, with mask-wearing optional for staff and patrons.
The Croydon Partnership, formed by Hammerson and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, has ceased involvement with the £1.4 planned regeneration of Croydon’s Centrale & Whitgift shopping centre. Westfield Croydon would have been a 200,000sq ft mixed-use development, but the Partnership cited the ongoing pandemic and the difficulties it created for retail alongside Brexit as reasons for their departure. The landlords have said they will continue to work with Croydon Council to regenerate the town centre. Spokesman Simon Cochrane said: “The retail industry was already facing major challenges which have been impacted further over the past 18 months, requiring a new approach to the regeneration of Croydon. We look forward to working with the council to create the Regeneration and Recovery Action Plan, which will define a new vision for the town centre that responds to the changes brought about by the pandemic and embraces the needs of the local community.”
Sutton Council has bought the long leasehold on St Nicholas Shopping Centre, giving it greater control over the property. The purchase is part of the council’s plans to regenerate the town centre to ensure it remains an attractive destination for the local community. The shopping centre, which includes an Empire Cinema, was impacted by the collapse of key tenants such as Debenhams. Councillor Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, said: “Delivering a vibrant high street that responds to today’s leisure, consumer and employment demands is more important than ever as we seek to rebuild Sutton’s communities and economy after the impact of the pandemic. We will work with our local residents, businesses and voluntary and public sector partners to fully understand their needs and to ensure that we are safeguarding the centre of Sutton for future generations.”
Openings and closures
Gordon Ramsay is to open The River Restaurant, his second restaurant at the Savoy Hotel, next month; Neapolitan pizza brand Rudy’s is to open its second site in Liverpool in late September; Glasgow restaurant group C&C is to launch Roberta’s, a new Italian restaurant, in the city next month; Lunar Pub Company will open British restaurant Ganymede in London’s Belgravia; Dutch brand The Avocado Show are bringing their exclusively avocado-based menu to Mayfair next month; Plant shop and café concept JOY has relaunched in Marylebone; multifaceted drinks and dining space The Broadcaster is to launch at the former BBC headquarters in White City next month; Japanese brand Marugame Udon has signed for its second London site at the O2 in Greenwich.