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Property and retail industry bosses call for change in lease structures

Mike Shearwood, chief executive of Aurora Fashions, which operates womenswear chains Oasis, Coast, Karen Millen and Warehouse, has called for change in lease structures at the BCSC annual conference in Manchester this week.

Shearwood said that with a strong shift to bigger units, as retailers see larger unit holders get better concessions, more pressure is unfairly being passed on to small space users.

Arguing against occupiers sharing sales information he said that this could encourage rent rises burdening profitable stores, while for poorly performing schemes landlords may use low sales data to decide to induce rivals with better terms than those achieved by the incumbents.

Shearwood said: “We would like to see shorter leases, an end to upward only reviews and transparency on new retailer rents for entrants to a scheme.”

Lawrence Hutchings, managing director UK retail, at developer Hammerson added of the shift towards larger format stores: “It is having a fundamental impact and requires a better shift towards the costs for anchors and MSUs” as he said the burden is becoming too high on unit stores.

On leasing he countered: “How many retailers see our lease structure as a barrier to entry? Is it time to revisit our leases? At Hammerson we have no problems with shorter leases and monthly payments but we also need to put on the table a fundamental review, including automatic rights for renewal.”

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