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Market Commentary

​​Weekly Retail & Leisure News - 30 March, 2015

February retail sales up, as retailers and investors target urban locations

UK retail sales grew more strongly than expected in February, up 0.7% compared with the previous month, according to the ONS. After the BRC released positive trading results for February earlier this month, the ONS’s results followed suit, showing that compared with February 2014, sales were 5.7% higher, boosted by the recovery in the housing market. Non-food stores saw the biggest increase in sales by volume, in particular household goods which lagged the effect of last year's improvement in house sales, as people furnished and decorated their new homes.

Leading UK retail REIT, Hammerson, also announced this week that the ‘Croydon Partnership’, its JV with Westfield, has acquired the Whitgift Trust's 50% long leasehold interest in the Whitgift Centre. This transaction gives the Partnership ownership of the shopping centre, alongside its freehold owner, the Whitgift Foundation, and management control to transform the Partnership's wider 2 million sq ft urban retail centre.

Two of the UK’s leading grocers have announced plans this week to expand their convenience offer. Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe commented that the retailer could double its convenience estate to more than 1,500 stores. In addition, Asda has now entered this sub-sector; the grocer has plans to open 11 new stores in Greater London in the next few months with plans for a further 150 nationwide by 2018. Two of these London stores will be Asda’s first ‘High Street’ stores, located on main thoroughfares in urban centres. These moves are reflective of a wider trend, we are witnessing in UK retail and beyond, whereby retailers and investors are increasingly targeting urban centres, as consumers are moving to and shopping in city locations.

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