Squeeze fails to halt big names' expansion

Property giant Land Securities yesterday revealed large retailers were still looking for space at its shopping centres, despite the consumer spending squeeze.

The group - whose portfolio includes the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre in Glasgow and Aberdeen's Bon Accord complex - said interest in its locations in London and on edge-of-town sites has picked up.

It plans to start seven projects in the south-east of England and the Midlands, worth 275 million in total, to take advantage of the shortage and help meet increased demand from food and fashion retailers.

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The new sites will be primarily for supermarkets, Primark and extensions to existing retail parks and will contribute an extra one million square feet of space, with 1,000 jobs forecast to be created.

Bespoke projects will include a Primark store in the Westwood Cross mall in Kent, extensions to existing stores for Sainsbury's and Tesco in Wandsworth and Taplow respectively and a new Morrisons store in Crawley.

Extensions to a shopping centre in Derby and a new store in Birmingham are also thought to be in the pipeline.

The group reported a drop in the number of empty shops in the past three months. As a proportion of the retail portfolio, voids fell to 4.1 per cent from 4.5 per cent, though the number of units in administration rose due to the collapse of Focus DIY and problems at Habitat.

The group's London-focused commercial and office business also reported less empty space. Total new lettings in the quarter were 9.5m. The strength of the London market meant that the 177.1m-worth of property sold in the quarter was 7.9 per cent above the estimated value three months earlier.

Katherine Armstead, Land Securities' portfolio manager for Scotland, said: "Buchanan Galleries has attracted a host of new fashion brands this year, including Boux Avenue. The 6m refurbishment of our Bon Accord centre is progressing well and is already capturing the interest of potential new tenants."