Landlord warns no more rent holidays for shopping centre businesses

Commercial property owner Hammerson has warned its tenants that it will no longer offer rent concessions to hard-hit retailers and businesses.

The owner of the Birmingham Bullring and London’s Brent Cross said “all avenues to collect rents due are being pursued”.

During the pandemic, Hammerson said £26 million in rents were waived, written off or still not yet due for 2020, with £15 million in the same situation so far this year.

Hammerson’s announcement came as bosses revealed that the company has still only managed to collect 62% of the £154 million rents due so far this year and 89% of the £264 million due in 2020.

Around 68% of rent due for the first half of the current year and 47% of initial rent for the third quarter has arrived – up from the same point a year ago, they added.

Birmingham Bullring
An almost-empty Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham at the height of the pandemic (Jacob King/PA)

Bosses said the easing of some Covid restrictions since the company’s last update on April 20 has seen an increase in customers heading to its shopping centres, but restaurants, cinemas and other leisure activities continue to suffer.

Footfall numbers are between 70% and 80% of 2019 levels, although this fell from an initial spike immediately after non-essential retailers and leisure services reopened in April and May.

Independently recorded footfall figures and retail sales data across the sector have shown that people are preferring to head to retail parks, with shopping centres failing to win over as many customers with restrictions eased.

Hammerson said: “Many retailers continue to report high sales and conversion rates as visitors shop with purpose.

“These trends have been particularly positive in France during the first few days of the summer sales period.”

Bosses also pointed out that additional Covid restrictions have been announced in France, where it has a portfolio of shopping centres, but added: “It is too early to assess the operational impact.”