Hammerson, owner of Birmingham’s Bullring, is to cut rents for its retail tenants by 30% as it aims to recover from a year of lockdowns.
The firm’s UK boss Mark Bourgeois said it had been a “challenging” period when it had tried to “share the pain” with retailers forced to shut. Non-essential shops in England and Wales reopened on Monday. Hammerson said footfall had been stronger than the week after the first lockdown ended in June. Over the past year, Hammerson, which also owns London’s Brent Cross, collected about 75% of rents owed by its tenants and agreed on abatements with those shops who needed it. However, it expects to continue helping the retailers in its shopping centers which also include The Oracle site in Reading and the Victoria Quarter in Leeds.
Over its last financial year, for the 12 months to 31 December, Hammerson reported a record £1.7bn loss. However, even before the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of large parts of the economy, retailers and their landlords were struggling as more consumers chose to shop online. Last June, Intu, the heavily indebted owned of Manchester’s Trafford Centre, was forced to file for administration. Mr. Bourgeois said: “Retail has always been about winners and losers and that’s been really accelerated during Covid.”
He said Hammerson was now working to “repurpose” space left by the likes of department store Debenhams, which closed all its high street stores after falling into administration and selling the brand to online fashion firm Boohoo.