Hammerson sails through retail gloom with record shopping centre leasing activity

Alys Key
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Massive centrally located sites like Southampton's West Quay are still proving attractive to retailers (Source: Hammerson)

Record leasing activity helped retail property firm Hammerson increase profits in the first half despite a weaker shopping landscape.

The company said retailers still want prime locations to tie in with multichannel strategies, and that customer engagement programmes at Hammerson's shopping centres help facilitate this.

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The figures

Hammerson reported net rental income for the six months to 30 June of £184m, up 9.7 per cent on the previous year.

Profit increased six per cent to £119.4m.

Extensions and acquisitions brought the total value of the company's portfolio to £10.5bn, up 5.6 per cent since the end of last year.

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Why it's interesting

Despite "headwinds" in UK retail, Hammerson is still confident of growth because its prime locations are valued by retailers as part of a multichannel shopping strategy, even if the same brands are closing stores elsewhere. It said this was facilitated by the company's focus on retail design, digital solutions, customer engagement.

Retail sales growth in the firm's UK shopping centres, which include London's Brent Cross and the Bullring in Birmingham, fell 3.9 per cent in the period. This marked an acceleration on the 0.8 per cent decline last year, and was accompanied by receding footfall.

It was a similar picture in French shopping centres, which last year saw three per cent sales growth but this year swung to a 3.1 per cent decline.

Despite this, leasing activity brought in record levels of income at £18.1m and rent was eight per cent higher than December 2016.

Hammerson signed 228 leases across the UK, France, and Ireland representing a total of 85,300 square metres of space.

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What the company said

"In an environment of continuing retail polarisation, brands are prioritising our well invested, prime locations to support a multichannel platform," said chief executive David Atkins.

"Whilst we are beginning to see a softer consumer backdrop and increased headwinds for retailers in the UK, given our leading assets and the diversity of our portfolio across the rest of Europe, I am confident that we will continue to grow income and dividends in line with previous guidance."

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