April 28, 2021
Primark has reported a successful first week of reopening as restrictions on non-essential retail ease. The fashion and homewares retailer saw record weekly takings for England and Wales in the week beginning 12th April. John Bason, the finance director of Primark’s parent company, ABF, said in a statement: “Fashion is back… There seems to be a broader-based expectation that things are normalising”. He also said that footfall and transactions across stores so far have been in line with pre-Covid levels.
Homebase is continuing the rollout of its smaller stores with a new high street shop in Surrey. The home improvement retailer’s presence in Walton-on-Thames includes the addition of a Kitchens by Homebase in an existing Bathstore showroom, along with a DECORATE by Homebase store and the first small-format Homebase, offering a selection of its home and garden products. CEO of Homebase, Damian McGloughlin, comments: “We understand the importance of customer experience both in-store and online and we’re really excited to be bringing our inspiration, style and advice to the high street.”
Monsoon has launched a new boutique concept, starting with a store in Marylebone: the first in a series of 30 stores planned across the UK and Ireland. The new boutiques, part of a ‘refresh’ of Monsoon after the store was rescued from administration, will take design inspiration from the brand’s long relationship with India. Founder Peter Simon said, “this store is a bold new expression of Monsoon, taking us back to our roots and celebrating the joy and colour that is so rich in our heritage.”
The chief executive of the New West End Company has called for extra government support for retail in the area, particularly until international shoppers return. Jace Tyrrell said, “We desperately need an extension of Sunday trading hours in Britain’s two international centres - London’s West End and Knightsbridge. As we look to the evolution of the high street in post-pandemic London, we need to be able to give shoppers the flexibility they need to spend what they want, when they want, while generating more money for retailers and protecting jobs.”
A new report published by Deloitte suggests a strong desire to return to bricks-and-mortar retail as lockdown measures ease. This quarter’s Consumer Tracker Report highlighted the highest jump in consumer confidence in ten years, bolstered by the UK’s vaccination programme, roadmap for lifting restrictions and the Chancellor’s renewed support for workers. ‘Going to the shop’ topped the list of leisure activities consumers were likely to do after lockdown, with 63% of respondents saying they’d return to shops within a month of their reopening. Ian Stewart, a chief economist at Deloitte, said: “High levels of saving, the successful vaccination rollout and the easing of the lockdown set the stage for a surge in spending over the coming months.”
Brewer Shepherd Neame says that trade has surpassed its expectations since it reopened over 200 pubs. Despite only being able to open beer gardens, some locations have seen record weekly sales, with figures at or above 2019 levels. Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame, said: “People have come out faster and stronger than in those first weeks in July suggesting the consumer is more confident.”
Pub company Hawthorn has acquired 14 pubs from operator Everards of Leicestershire. Hawthorn operate around 700 pubs across England, Scotland and Wales, with the new acquisitions predominantly located in the East Midlands. Stephen Gould, managing director at Everards, said in a statement: “The whole team at Hawthorn have been a delight to work with and I know that our business owners will be in good hands working with a company with similar values to our own. The deal positions Everards well for continued investment into our pub estate, acquisitions and Everards Meadows, our 90-acre leisure and tourism development in Leicestershire."
Hospitality company Whitbread is set to invest in around 5,000 new rooms for Premier Inn locations across the country, as it prepares for post-lockdown recovery. 92% of the chain's hotels stayed open during the latest lockdown, but occupancy levels hovered at about a third of the normal rate. The company hopes to target business customers and UK holidaymakers on ‘staycations’ in coastal and rural locations, in time for the easing of restrictions on domestic travel. However, chief executive Alison Brittain said that she did not expect Whitbread to make a full recovery until mass events such as concerts and football matches returned.
Following calls by UKHospitality Cymru for the reopening of indoor hospitality in line with England and Scotland on 17th May, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that restrictions will indeed ease on this date. The date, a week earlier than previously thought, is set to be confirmed by the next government following the Senedd election in early May. Executive director for UKHospitality Cymru, Dave Chapman, said: “We have led the calls for earlier reopening and have been advising, consulting and negotiating on the need to help protect jobs and businesses- and the public- by opening up our scrupulously regulated licensed premises, to look after undoubted customer demand as soon as possible.”
In Scotland, hospitality business owners have been confused by the latest change in Covid restrictions. Since 26th April, up to six people from two households can share a table indoors, but must remain at a one-metre distance from those not in their household. This rule was in place last year, but was generally taken by business owners to mean a one-metre gap between tables. Venues also cannot serve alcohol to indoor diners and must close at 8pm. Nadia Di Giorgio, who co-owns Di Giorgio's Café in Edinburgh, said in a statement: “We all had to do what we thought was right. It's still not clear what the implications are for not following the guidance. It's baffling.”
Retail landlord Hammerson has agreed to sell its remaining retail parks to Canadian investor Brookfield for £330million. With the sale of seven sites, Hammerson, who own Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre and jointly own Brent Cross shopping centre, will have fully exited the UK retail parks sector. Hammerson chief executive Rita-Rose Gagné says that the aim of the sales is to strengthen the company’s balance sheet, adding: “We have successfully welcomed back our customers in England to our flagship venues, with footfall levels well above the June 2020 reopening, and look forward to reopening our other destinations as local restrictions allow over the coming months.”
Cervidae has acquired a mall in the Beaumont Leys retail park in Leicester, from commercial landlord British Land. The investment and development company acquired Fletcher Mall, which includes 40 retail leases. Maurice Roberts, Investment and Asset Manager at Cervidae, said: “Whilst there are undoubtedly more difficult times ahead for UK bricks-and-mortar retail, this acquisition of Fletcher Mall continues our strategy of targeting strong performing assets which are underpinned by their provision of essential services to the local community.”
Town Hotels, the hospitality division of property developers Living Brick, has invested over £11m into two new Liverpool hotels. The £4.2m, 30-bedroom Duke Street hotel will welcome guests after the next easing of lockdown restrictions on 17th May. The second development, the Baltic Triangle’s first hotel, will include 58 rooms and is set to launch in July.
CBRE Global Investors has announced the completion of its refurbishment of Islington’s Angel Central shopping centre. After being granted planning permission for the works in 2018, RED Construction began redevelopment, including over 20,000sq ft in bespoke units for fashion retailer Uniqlo and fitness studio Frame. CBRE Global Investors’ EMEA head of retail, Eric Decouvelaere, said: “Location and relevance are both critical and as this centre is located in the heart of London, providing tailored experiences to our customers who now want to shop, dine, socialise and work-out, Angel Central offers it all.”
Openings and closures
Luke French, chef and owner of Jöro restaurant in Sheffield, is set to open a gastro-hotel in the city, with rooms designed by partner Stacey; Jason Atherton’s new restaurant, Café Biltmore Restaurant and Terrace, opened in Mayfair’s Biltmore Hotel last week; Razak Helalat, founder of the Salt Room and Coal Shed restaurants, will open new restaurant Burnt Orange on the Brighton seafront in early June; Polpo co-founder Russell Norman is to open Tuscan restaurant Brutto in London later this year; chef and TV presenter Rick Stein has announced the closure of his Falmouth restaurant; A contemporary bakehouse and dining room from Liz Cottam, chef-patron behind Home and the Owl in Leeds, will open in Boston Spa in May.
In other news
Covent Garden’s Punjab restaurant is joining charity Penny Appeal’s Holiday Hunger Campaign to feed 10,000 people in the month of Ramadan. Since the beginning of lockdown, Punjab has provided over 175,000 meals to people who are homeless, facing hardship or working on the frontline. Punjab’s managing director, Amrit Mana, said: "We've not shied away from working with charities representing any faith and [or] none. My faith informs me that we are all one humanity. I wish all those observing a peaceful Eid and thank Penny Appeal for their amazing work. It really is about working together." Punjab launched in 1946, making it one of the oldest Indian restaurants in London.