In some ways it has been business as usual as Realm, the specialist independent asset manager, has delivered 29 new leases and regears in 2020/1 across its outlet centre portfolio. With non-essential retail reopening in April, it has served as an opportunity to reflect on another busy year for the operator and their in-house leasing team who have successfully negotiated with current and new occupiers across several categories that include fashion, health & beauty, athleisure and F&B.
The deals totalling 140,000 sq ft across the country and demonstrate that the outlet proposition is still teaming with opportunity and resilience if it is well managed and maintained. Livingston Designer Outlet has boosted its athleisure, fashion and footwear line up with Champion, Dune and Jack and Jones. London Designer Outlet in Wembley has also increased its fashion offering with a total of 36,000 sq ft of leases agreed, including a significant expansion of its sports and athleisure line-up. Elsewhere, Dalton Park in County Durham has diversified its tenant mix through new deals agreed with the supermarket Morrisons, alongside Costa Coffee, Molton Brown and Cotton Traders.
Christine Grace, leasing director, at Realm, said: “Business has continued as usual in many ways as the Realm leasing team has continued to successfully promote and negotiate new deals with brands to take space in our portfolio. What has changed is the way we have liaised with potential occupiers using technology: deploying 360 degree virtual tours of our schemes and showcasing individual units remotely when protocols dictated that a face to face viewing was not possible. With these challenges and fewer trading periods last year, the volume of leases we agreed across Realm’s portfolio seems all the more impressive and ultimately demonstrates a resolute vote of confidence in the outlet offering from the brands that we have been speaking to.”
Realm-managed outlets in the UK saw a significant and rapid bounce-back when reopening between lockdowns last year, with a rapid return of footfall levels to 85% on the previous year, which compared very favourably to full price shopping centres. The resilient performance of physical outlet destinations is a timely endorsement that the Realm portfolio offers a much needed and popular leisurely and rewarding retail experience which cannot be replicated online.