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The owner of some of the UK’s biggest shopping centres, Intu, has called in administrators.

The firm, which owns the Trafford Centre, the Lakeside complex, and Braehead, said earlier it had not reached an agreement in financial restructuring talks with its lenders.

Its centres will stay open under administrators KPMG. The company said shares listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges had been suspended.

The significance of Intu’s collapse “cannot be understated,” said Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics.

The coronavirus lockdown is speeding up a trend towards buying more consumer goods online, he said. He estimates 50% of workers normally can’t receive parcels at work.

But with many people spending most of their time at home, and car journeys to shopping centres discouraged, many of those people are now ordering via websites.

How landlords should react is a difficult question and there won’t be a simple solution that will work for every mall, he says.

Particularly hard-hit will be shops at large office developments like Canary Wharf if more people are working from home.

“It’s going to be a really, really tough challenge. There’s no getting away from the fact we have too much retail space.”

While more retailers and shopping centres are likely to close, landlords can offer shorter, flexible leases, he said, to attract retailers with new ideas.

The firm said it had appointed three administrators at the KPMG accountancy firm and that “the appointment is expected to become effective shortly”.

The company was one of the UK’s biggest shopping centre groups, with 17 centres in the UK.

In Nottingham, where it owns the Victoria Centre, shoppers said they hoped stores would remain open.

One worker at the local Boots, who didn’t give her name, said she didn’t know yet whether her shop will be affected. “I think we’ll all be worried,” she told the BBC.

Intu had been struggling even before the coronavirus outbreak with about £4.6bn worth of debt.

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