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Liberty Two Degrees has shopping mall recovery under close scrutiny

Liberty Two Degrees has shopping mall recovery under close scrutiny

Liberty Two Degrees has shopping mall recovery under close scrutiny

By Edward West Time of article published May 31, 2021

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LIBERTY Two Degrees (L2D) said the relaxed pandemic restrictions had stimulated early signs of a retail recovery, and average footfall for the four months to April was 101 percent above that for the same month in 2019.

Comparison with 2020 was avoided due to the lockdown, the group said in a pre-close statement Friday.

The average footcount at L2D’s retail malls such as Sandton City, Eastgate and Midlands Mall, was 82.4 percent in January 2021 compared with January 2019, 84.7 percent in February, and 79.5 percent in March.

Improved customer counting software had been implemented from April 1 allowing the group to count customers and analyse shopping patterns within the shopping centres.

Additional operational metrics tracked by the software in April 2021 included customer count zones, dwell times, vehicle counts and gender and demographic distribution.

High customer count zones across the portfolio include the apparel, food service and electronics categories. Stationery, entertainment and eyewear and optometry were shown to be low customer count zones.

The new software was also able to assist from a safety aspect by identifying stolen cars, weapons, or persons banned from the centres.

The quarterly turnover reflected the portfolio’s recovery post the onset of Covid-19, with first quarter of 2021 turnover down only 3.9 percent compared to the first three months of 2020.

From a monthly perspective, April turnover was up 2.3 percent from March 2021. Furthermore, turnover for April 2021 was down by only 5.9 percent compared to April 2019, an improvement from March 2021, which was down 6.4 percent compared to March 2019.

Super-regional centres in general were severely impacted across South Africa during lockdown, however Sandton City and Eastgate combined had showed resilience with turnover for March 2021 at 95.2 percent and April at 96.9 percent of 2019 levels respectively.

Strong performing categories across the portfolio included technology as well as homeware and furniture.

At the end of April 2021, Sandton Sun hotel was the only hotel in the portfolio that was operational, with the Garden Court resuming trade in early May 2021.

The Sandton Sun’s occupancy rate was 54.6 percent in April 2021, up from the December 2020 occupancy rate of 46.5 percent.

The Sandton Convention Centre’s lease with Tsogo Sun Hotels was converted to a management agreement in 2020, on a management fee basis and a new lease would be negotiated when market conditions were stable enough to enter into a long-term agreement.

The Convention Centre was still bound by Covid-19 restrictions limiting the size of conferences, but five events took place in March and April 2021.

Portfolio occupancies have not changed significantly since December 2020.

Eastgate introduced a drive-in cinema on its rooftop which had attracted favourable interest, with Sandton City scheduled to follow suit in early June 2021.

As at 30 April 2021, 89.9 percent of rental relief negotiations had been concluded. L2D said it remained well capitalised with a loan to value of 23.6 percent and unutilised facilities of R247 million.

Liberty Two’s share price closed unchanged on Friday.

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