‘Global brands believe in the future of bricks and mortar retail’

Matthew Roberts, CEO Intu Properties

Despite widespread negative sentiment, all global brands still believe in bricks & mortar retail, Matthew Roberts, CEO, Intu Properties, told The Real Estate Day.

It has been a challenging time for the sector but, in the end, what matters is quality so the good assets in the best locations continue to do well. 

‘I have had a lovely time since I took over as chief executive back in the spring of 2019, out meeting the leaders of our top 30 customers and most of them are global brands,’ he said. ‘The really good news is that they all believe in the future of bricks and mortar retailing’.

They might be shrinking their estate, but they want to go into the top locations in the markets that they are interested in. ‘We are lucky enough to have nine out of the top 20 shopping centre locations in the UK and three of the top ten in Spain, so our customers want to continue to invest with us,’ Roberts said. 

‘We did see a bit of a time out on some of those global brands taking space in the last 12-24 months with the political and economic uncertainty in the UK but that has changed now’, he said. 

Leases that had been negotiated for months were suddenly signed as soon as the Brexit uncertainty came to an end and there was a stable government, he said, so ‘hopefully those global brands like Inditex will be back investing in the UK and we’ll see the benefit of that’.

It is necessary to adapt to a changing retail environment and landlords will have to take more operational risk as shorter leases are clearly the future, but ‘landlords can still thrive if they have the right assets,’ Roberts said.

‘When I started my life in retailing a quarter of a century ago everyone took 25-year leases, but now the direction of travel on leases is shorter and shorter,’ he said. 

‘The average lease length in Spain is three years now, but we have a very good business there, our centres are full and rents are growing. We may have to end up with more turnover elements but because of the great assets that we have, I think it is a situation that we will thrive on’.

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