Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), the premier global developer and operator of flagship destinations, has announced that 65 of its 90 shopping centres have re-opened after the easing of restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 crisis. This follows announcements by authorities in Los Angeles and France on 26 and 29 May, respectively.
With the remainder of the group’s centres currently planning to open by 8 June in Spain and 15 June in London, URW expects to have at least 87 per cent of its shopping centres (approximately 80 per cent by book value) open by 15 June. This number is likely to increase as further US states and counties confirm the end of their restrictions. Five of the US centres not yet open have been providing curbside delivery.
Table: Provides a detailed overview of the group’s re-opening status.
While trading of bars, restaurants and cinemas is still restricted in many locations, URW’s centres have seen footfall returning progressively following re-opening and generally above levels the group anticipated.
In Germany and Austria, the group’s centres have re-opened since late April/early May. Footfall has grown to at or above 80 per cent of the prior year level. The URW assets in the Czech Republic have also seen footfall at around 80 per cent of the prior year level over the past three weeks. In France, the centres which re-opened on 11 May are now seeing footfall above 60 per cent of the prior year level (excluding Carrousel du Louvre, since the Louvre museum is still closed), with Rennes Alma reaching 90 per cent. As restrictions on public transport are lifted from 2 June, our well-connected centres will also start to see more of the usual “walkthrough” visitors. At centres in the Paris region which only re-opened on 29 or 30 May, footfall on Saturday 30 May was encouraging being around 65 per cent of last year.
Although URW is yet to receive formal sales reporting, tenants have generally seen higher conversion rates and basket sizes than expected, with visitors returning for specific shopping objectives, resulting in a better anticipated sales impact relative to footfall. In fact, the French statistics agency, Insee, reported it expects sales to have rebounded strongly since the deconfinement and, according to press reports, in many sectors to levels above last year, albeit this may be driven partly by pent-up demand from the lock down period.
Speaking of the promising figures, Christophe Cuvillier, group CEO of URW, said: “While of course things are not yet back to normal, it is very encouraging to see so many of the group’s centres able to trade again, while utilising all appropriate and required measures to ensure the health and safety of our visitors, tenants and employees. Health and beauty, sports, home equipment and children’s clothing are believed to be among the best performing segments.
“The recovery in footfall in markets such as Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic to now around 80 per cent of pre-crisis levels, as well as the good initial performance of the recently re-opened large French assets, provides strong reassurance, especially considering that significant restrictions still apply on major footfall drivers such as restaurants and cinemas, and that most governments have encouraged companies and employees to continue to favour homeworking.”
As URW prepares for the gradual resumption of its shopping centres’ activities, the company says that its top priority is to ensure that its shops can re-open and its customers can enjoy their visit feeling safe and confident everything is in place to protect them.
With this in mind, URW has launched a new campaign aimed at shoppers and retailers to communicate its strategy to keep them safe, in compliance with the recommendations of the local health authorities.
The #WorkingTogether campaign has a two-fold aim: inform consumers of the gradual re-opening of its shopping centres across the globe, and communicate operational messages such as phased opening hours, social distancing guidelines, and increased sanitary measures. It includes in-situ print and digital communication, as well as social media coverage.
Using a tongue-in-cheek tone, #WorkingTogether recalls the playfulness and creativity of its Pan-European “Come Together” marketing campaign launched last autumn, while reflecting the spirit of cooperation and dedication that characterise the way the group works today.