Shopping numbers improve at shopping centres but are still below pre-Covid levels

Shoppers are returning to big shopping centres in the West Midlands – but numbers are still below pre-Covid levels.

The iconic bull outside the Birmingham Bullring shopping centre
The iconic bull outside the Birmingham Bullring shopping centre

The owner of the Birmingham Bullring and Grand Central says it has seen a distinct improvement since lockdown measures were relaxed.

But the number of people visiting the centres is between 15 and 20 per cent below those enjoyed when times were normal.

Hammerson, which sold its Forge Retail Park in Telford in May, said despite the numbers still being below pandemic levels, all rents must be paid.

It said it was now expecting shops renting space in its centres to operate as normal, adding: "We do not anticipate granting future concessions and all avenues to collect rents due are being pursued."

Last year Hammersonsaid £30 million in rents were waived, written off or still not yet due, with £20M in the same situation so far this year.

Around 94 per cent of rents owed from last have now been paid and 78 per cent of this year's have also been paid, the company added.

Sites in the UK have performed best, including some shopping centres seeing footfall exceeding pre-pandemic levels on the August bank holiday weekend.

UK sales are now in line with August and September 2019 but these were dragged down by business in France, with sales down four per cent.

Rent collected in the final quarter of the year is at 70 per cent, with 74 per cent of rent collected in the UK, Ireland is at 71 per cent and France at 65 per cent.

Hugh Carrow, an analyst at Liberum, said: "While still subdued, we expect rent collection to continue to improve slightly with encouraging footfall trends given low restriction levels, although we still have concerns on whether levels will be sustained without international visitors returning ahead of the winter trading period."

Shopping centres have struggled more than high streets and retail parks in terms of recovery since Covid restrictions eased, with shoppers keen to avoid confined spaces.

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