May 26, 2021
Supermarket bosses are in talks with the government to do away with social distancing measures in-store. The latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ figures show a reduction in footfall of 40 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, which has been attributed to the introduction of measures such as social distancing and mask-wearing. A general end to social distancing and mask-wearing rules is under review as part of plans for the full easing of restrictions set for 21st June. The BRC said that the cost of social distancing measures was “in the billions”.
UK supermarkets are moving away from 24-hour opening due to little demand at night. Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are now each able to fulfil over 800,000 online orders per week, suggesting that the quieter night-time hours are better for order fulfilment, nearly all of which is done from stores. Tesco was the first supermarket to introduce 24-hour trading in 1997 after laws on opening times changed. Steve Dresser from Grocery Insight said: “Managers thought that since the store was staffed anyway for restocking, it might as well be trading. But it was never big business.”
International retailers are looking for retail space in Dublin, as rents have fallen by up to 30 per cent. Units left vacant by brands such as Topshop and Carphone Warehouse are being considered by retailers such as Calvin Klein and sportswear retailer lululemon. Commercial property consultant Neil Bannon expects that Grafton Street will be occupied by the first half of 2022. He said: “We will see Grafton Street pivot away from a UK-dominated high street mix to a more international mix.”
Carpetright has opened a new flagship on Tottenham Court Road. Named The Floor Room, the new concept presents a more boutique feel alongside well-known brands and exclusive ranges. The store includes QR codes for customers to scan and shortlist their favourites to discuss with staff at an ‘inspiration station’. Carpetright plans to roll out the concept across the UK in future. Carpetright head of communications Helen Marsh, who is also project director for The Floor Room, said: “The floor room is a modern showroom which offers a beautiful selection of products in a design-led environment and aims to inspire people to put flooring at the centre of their interiors schemes.”
Pret A Manger is continuing to extend its offering beyond the high street with its first petrol station store next week. The partnership with Motor Fuel Group will see Pret’s first trial store at a BP station in Southgate, London, with another store to follow next year. Pret has also partnered with Moto, allowing Pret to add a third motorway service location to its estate. The news follows the launch of four new Pret stores in Tesco supermarkets and the introduction of a supermarket range earlier this year. Pret UK managing director, Clare Clough, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have looked for innovative ways to bring Pret to more people, and partnerships, such as this one, are an important part of this strategy.”
Indoor hospitality reopened in Northern Ireland this week. The Northern Ireland Executive gave the green light last Thursday and restaurants and pubs were allowed to reopen for indoor dining on Monday. Under the new rules, up to six people from different households can share a table, but if all diners are from the same household, up to ten can sit together. Chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill said: “This is not ‘job done’. With extensive restrictions still in place, many businesses will still struggle to break even, let alone make a profit. It is vital that we see these restrictions removed as soon as possible and engagement from the Executive as we begin the long road of rebuilding what was Northern Ireland’s fourth largest private sector employer, pre-Covid.”
Gordon Ramsay Restaurants is planning to open another 10 UK sites as part of its ambitious expansion strategy. In the last few weeks, it launched five new restaurants, including three branches for its new Street Burger brand. Ramsay’s UK portfolio is centred around London, but the group are considering openings in regions such as Manchester and Newcastle. New CFO of Gordon Ramsay Restaurants Antony Perring said: “Our planned new restaurant openings will enable the business to accelerate its growth, boosting employment in the sector and advancing existing and new landlord relationships.”
Independent hotel The Dilly has opened in London’s West End, on the site of Marriott International’s Le Méridien Piccadilly. Archer Hotel Capital, who own the property, decided to operate The Dilly as an independent hotel when the management contract ended with Marriott. The renovated 255-room hotel also includes 28 suites, two restaurants and a dance studio. Alex Pritchard, director of Axiom Hospitality, who will manage the hotel on behalf of Archer, said: “We believe The Dilly has the potential to be the place to see and be seen in Piccadilly as it once was.”
UK cinemas have seen better-than-expected sales in their first weekend of reopening, likely boosted by the rain. The UK Cinema Association said that the total box office for the first week since cinemas were allowed to reopen was more than £10m, half of which is attributable to Sony Pictures’ Peter Rabbit sequel. Cineworld also reported a strong opening weekend as it reopened its 128 sites, including strong concession income from snacks (Odeon sold 25,000 portions of popcorn between last Monday and Thursday). Vue chief executive Tim Richards said that he expected a “golden era” for cinemas, due to pent-up demand and the release of several studio films that had been postponed.
Hotel brand The Hoxton is to open its fourth London hotel in Shepherd’s Bush. The 237-room hotel, set to open next winter, will include retail, meeting and events spaces, collaborating with local artists and designers in its décor. The Shepherd’s Bush hotel will join locations in Shoreditch, Holborn and Southwark, and The Hoxton’s other hotels across Europe and North America. The brand is also planning four other new European sites, in Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna.
A new company has launched to revitalise Britain’s high streets in the wake of the pandemic. Property investor and developer Sam Ginda has launched Future High Street Living, which aims to boost footfall and create jobs by investing in new developments on struggling high streets, including mixed-use and residential spaces. Ginda has started by investing in Queens Square Shopping Centre in his hometown of West Bromwich, which he is passionate about. He said: “Future High Street Living is all about bringing struggling high streets back to life by investing in developments that will introduce new housing and new reasons to visit these areas yet again.”
West End landlord Shaftesbury has seen a reduction in vacancy rate in the past six weeks, which it hopes will continue. The landlord, who owns 600 buildings in the area, saw vacancy rates of 11.9% on the 31st March, but this has since become 11.6%. Shaftesbury expects that local workers will return after the next lockdown easing on 21st June, along with UK tourists and locals. European property analyst at JPMorgan Chase, Tim Leckie, said: “The damage to estimated rental values was done by retail, specifically large unit retail leases along Carnaby Street. Covid-19 is accelerating the downsizing of these units to formats more in demand today. Values have fallen 26.5% in the last year, which largely rebases the asset value and the recovery is under way.”
Openings and closures
The team behind Japanese restaurant Taka will relaunch its Mayfair site under new omakase concept Maru; Scottish chefs Paul Tamburrini and Martin Wishart will launch fine dining restaurant Tamburrini & Wishart at Loch Lomond’s Cameron House Hotel in August; Caribbean restaurant and bar chain Rum Kitchen is to open its first location outside London on the Brighton seafront; chef Tomas Lidakevicius’ ‘vegetable-centric’ pop-up Turnips is to become a permanent location within London’s Borough Market; Hard Rock Café is to open a site in Newcastle this month; chef Télémaque Argyriou is bringing his Greek street food concept Kalimera to a permanent site in London’s Crouch End next month; Japanese handroll bar Temaki, formerly a popup, is to open its first site in Brixton next month.