Help retailers cut total property costs, urges John Lewis

Retailers and landlords need to develop stronger relationships built on driving down fixed property costs during the recession, Jeremy Collins head of retail development at John Lewis Partnership told the British Council of Shopping Centres' management conference in Liverpool this morning.

Lewis, currently also president of BCSC, opened the conference with a plea to the shopping centre industry elite gathered in the audience. He said: "There needs to be better understanding between occupiers and owners. Retailers' short-term needs are a reduction in total property costs which are having a real impact on performance."

He urged the 450-strong delegation to lobby the Government to ease the business rates burden and delay the new valuation planned in the coming year.

Service charges should be reduced where possible having "risen inexorably", Lewis added.

"Retailers' margins have been getting clobbered and profits lines massively eroded. We have to help them control fixed costs," Lewis continued.

The debate on monthly versus quarterly payments should be accelerated towards a comprise and greater transparency encouraged on both sides, in terms of declaring sales performance, turnover, and where marketing initiatives are effective.

On the landlords' side, Lewis said deals needed to "protect shopping centres as an attractive asset class" to attract new capital for developing fresh space.

The BCSC conference, in association with the College of Estate Management, takes place from Monday to Wednesday this week. Other speakers today include BDP director Tessa O'Neill, James Max ex of The Apprentice and Lawrence Hutchings of Hammerson.

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