Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which owns Westfield London and Westfield Stratford, has reported a proportionate turnover for Q1 of £410.9 million, a 30.4% reduction compared to the same three month period in 2020, reflecting the impact of the prolonged COVID-19 restrictions.
Q1-2021 turnover remained “strongly impacted” by ongoing COVID-19 restrictions with 42 days of closures compared to 13 days in Q1-2020, with zero days of “normal” unrestricted operations (70 days in Q1-2020).
Total turnover on a proportionate basis for the first quarter reached £492.4 million, a decline of 40.8% on the first quarter of 2020. Gross rental income on a proportionate basis hit £436 million, a decline of 33.4% compared to 2020.
Vacancy rates in the UK rose from 9.7% to 12.6%, mainly due to tenants that are not expected to reopen after the severe Q1 lockdown, bankruptcies and lease surrenders.
The group also reported that in the first week after reopening on 12 April, footfall in the UK came to an encouraging 75% of 2019 level, reaching 1.2 million visits in a week, with Westfield London at 85% despite that restaurants and cinemas are still closed and Westfield Stratford, a major public transportation hub, at 69%, as the usage of public transportation remains subdued.
This footfall is higher than the June 2020 reopening, when footfall was tracking between 40–50% of the 2019 level. With indoor F&B and Entertainment operators expected to reopen in the UK on 17 May, the group expects footfall to improve further.
Commenting on the first quarter of 2021, Jean-Marie Tritant, Chief Executive Officer said: “The Group’s centres were effectively closed for an average of 42 days in the first quarter, with the exception of essential retail. While we saw encouraging leasing activity as brands continue to choose our locations in preparation for the post COVID-19 market rebound, our overall vacancy rate did increase slightly in Q1 as a result of the lagged impact of the pandemic on retailers. We continue to partner with our tenants to navigate this environment together.
“We see positive signs of a return to normality whenever restrictions are eased, thanks to pent-up consumer demand for our high quality shopping destinations. In March, sales in Spain, Austria and Sweden, where nonessential retail was allowed to trade, reached 81%, 79% and 76% of 2019 levels, respectively.
“In addition, the strong return of UK footfall, reaching 75% of 2019 levels and 1.2 million visits in the first week after reopening, despite ongoing indoor F&B and Entertainment closures, is an encouraging sign of the appetite we expect to see across all markets.”