West End bubble inoculates Shaftesbury against high street woes

The West End of London has remained largely impervious to the troubles of the UK’s high streets, real estate investment trust Shaftesbury said.

The business said that the companies that rent space in its West End portfolio have seen an increase in turnover, despite gloom across the country.

Its more affluent customer base is still visiting the 607 shops, restaurants, cafes and bars in the 15.2 acre site.

“Traditionally, the period leading up to and throughout Christmas and New Year has always seen the highest footfall and busiest trading, and this year has been no exception,” said chief executive Brian Bickell.

“Early data indicates that generally our occupiers, particularly food and beverage businesses, have seen turnover growth over the period, in contrast to reports of static or declining revenue and footfall nationally.”

High street woes have tended to hit the mid-range retailers harder, with luxury and budget brands more able to weather the storm.

Shaftesbury said its exposure to retail and restaurant restructurings, which have hit many high street landlords, has been low.

And it has grasped the opportunity to find new tenants when old ones have handed back their leases.

“Our proven strategy and impossible-to-replicate portfolio continue to give us confidence in the long-term prospects for the business,” Mr Bickell said.

However, consumer spending and business confidence are “likely to remain fragile” in coming months, even as political stability returned after December’s election.

Yet, it said, the West End is still attracting investment, with £2.9 billion going into the area around Oxford Street within the next three years.

The business said that it has pre-let half of the commercial space in its 72 Broadwick Street site, and will hand over 32,000 square feet to the US fitness brand Equinox before 2020 ends.

The site also has 15 new apartments, which will be let from the spring of next year.