January 2019

Joanna Bourke Evening Standard 040118

More signs that there was no retail apocalypse at Christmas emerged on Friday, as malls giant Westfield cheered record visitor numbers in London.

European retail landlord Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said 15.6 million shoppers flocked to its White City and Stratford centres in November and December. That was up 11% from the same period in 2017.

It had its “busiest ever” final Saturday before Christmas, and cheered a 9% surge in Boxing Day visitors. The firm, formed out of Unibail-Rodamco’s £18.5 billion Westfield takeover last year, also had a booming Black Friday weekend.
 Footfall growth comes despite fears that competition from online retailers and weak consumer confidence would keep Brits from the High Street last month.

Myf Ryan, Westfield’s european chief marketing officer, said certain retail tenants at Christmas reported a jump in sales, “with some having to undertake emergency restocking”. Boots and Habitat were two which reported growth over the festive period at Westfield.

Also today, a spokesman for Lakeside owner Intu Properties, said: “Sales over the festive period were a major draw for shoppers. Over a million people a day visited our centres.”

These updates come on top of several announcements this week that suggest analysts’ gloomy predictions for Christmas were misplaced. Landlords last year had to contend with scores of shops emptying as retailers collapsed or restructured, including Toys R Us, Maplin and New Look.

The owner of Wembley’s London Designer Outlet revealed a rise in sales and footfall respectively of 2% and 8% between December 21 and January 1.

High Street stalwart Next kicked off the retail festive reporting season with better-than-expected results, and sales at department store group John Lewis rose 4.5% in the week to December 29.