Over 200 shopping centres ‘in crisis’

Image copyright Getty Images

More than 200 UK shopping centres are in danger of falling into administration, experts are warning.

The demise of “major anchor stores” like BHS and Toys R Us and the rise of online shopping has caused a “downward spiral”, analyst Nelson Blackley said.

Many of the at-risk centres are owned by US private equity firms under deals that will need refinancing.

“If centres close, particularly in small towns, it will be catastrophic,” Mr Blackley said.

“We have too many of them, doing exactly the same – the same range of stores and products – and basically that’s not attractive,” he added.

In pictures: The rise and fall of shopping centres

Mother and daughter Helena Waszczyszyn and Anja Ramsden, from Nottingham, said the city’s Broadmarsh Centre was “empty and soulless”.

While it is not one of the 200 owned by private equity, the centre has seen shops close over the course of the past decade and is currently awaiting an £86m redevelopment.

Ms Ramsden said: “The shops have gone one by one – even when they were there they were a bit rubbish.

“It’s desolate in there. There’s a toilet, somewhere to sit and it’s out of the rain, that’s it.”

Image caption Mother and daughter Helena and Anja described their city’s shopping centre as “desolate”

Jasmin Stephenson, from Eastwood in Nottinghamshire, had a similar view of the centre, saying: “I literally only go if I have to.”

“A few years ago a lot of businesses closed down and cleared out,” she said.

“They said they were going to renovate it but nothing has happened. It’s not a place I go to now.

“It’s a shame, as a lot of history was demolished to make way for it and it’s just a concrete block. That’s quite depressing.”

Mr Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, said the growth of online retail in the UK – on sites such as Amazon – had been faster than in almost any other retail market in the world.

“If the major anchor store moves out, that has a halo effect on other stores in that centre. It’s a downward spiral and you can’t fill shopping centres with nail bars and vape shops.”

Steve Hall, from Essex, said: “I like shopping centres but they do seem to be dying and I wish some money was spent on making them good again.”

Image caption Steve Hall, from Essex, says shopping centres “seem to be dying”

Mr Blackley, who is based at Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Business School, pointed to research in the Financial Times that suggested about £2.5bn worth of shopping centres and retail parks are up for sale in towns and cities across the UK.

Some of this marketing is unofficial and not in the public domain,” he said.

“It’s a trend that’s moving very quickly. You don’t necessarily want to be in the business of owning shopping centres at the moment.

“People are suggesting a number of leading national retailers are on the edge and may close and that would bring shopping centres down with them.

“The collapse of BHS, two years ago, left empty units in around 200 shopping centres and more than half of those large, empty units have not yet been filled.”

Image copyright Getty Images

The crisis is affecting shopping centres across the UK, regardless of their location Daniel Mead from asset management firm APAM said.

All kinds of shopping centres, regardless of location or whether they are in small towns or major cities, could be affected,” he said.

“What they have in common is the way in which they are funded – the capital structure behind them. Obviously, if the centre is in a more affluent location, the problem could be easier to fix.”

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The Nicholsons Centre, in Maidenhead, went into receivership in October

One centre which recently went into receivership is the Nicholsons Shopping Centre in Maidenhead which, according to the Financial Times, was bought by Vixcroft, a private equity-backed property specialist and hedge fund Cheyne Capital in 2015.

The paper described Nicholsons as “one of the first significant collapses among dozens of UK retail property assets bought by opportunistic investors”.

Image copyright BBC Sport
Image caption Some centres seem to be caught in a “downward spiral”

Centres stagnating?

Residents have spoken to the BBC about their concerns regarding a number of shopping centres up and down the country, where they feel empty units and an apparent lack of investment have led to stagnation.

  • Kettering’s Newlands Centre, which is backed by private equity, has seen the closure of a number of outlets. “It’s a sad scene at the moment,” said Paul Ansell, chair of the town’s civic society. “There is a cycle of shops opening and closing and I’m not sure what they can do to improve it.”
  • The Guildhall in Stafford, also backed by a private equity group, has seen many retailers vacate the centre in favour of the town’s new Riverside complex. “We are concerned it’s not as vibrant and active as it was,” said William Read, of the Stafford Historical and Civic Society. “I walked through there the other day and about 15-20% of the units are empty.” Both private equity groups have been contacted for a comment.
  • The Callendar Square shopping centre in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, was bought by “global real estate investment manager” Colony Northstar in 2015. In 2006, the centre was valued at more than £25m but local media reported it sold for little more than £1m at auction last year.
  • The Broadmarsh in Nottingham is owned by Intu – currently the subject of a takeover bid – which operates shopping centres across the UK. While it does not face the same issues as private-equity backed centres, Mr Blackley said it offers “about as bad a retail experience as you can get without the centre physically closing”. Nigel Wheatley, the centre’s general manager, said preparations were under way for its “exciting transformation”. Intu, which runs the centre, said it was currently undertaking “preparatory work” for a planned £86m redevelopment.

The research to identify “at-risk” centres was carried out by APAM, which said it had found many of the affected centres had been the subject of short-term speculative deals.

Executive director Simon Cooke said: “We think these shopping centres have been hit with the perfect storm of defaulting retail markets, weaker consumer spending, the impact of the internet and rising rents and rates, making it very difficult for retailers to trade and make a profit.

“We perceive many of these borrowers beginning to breach land covenants.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Cooke said most of the centres “in crisis” were the subject of deals that are due to be refinanced.

“They have to return money to their investors,” said Mr Cooke. “That’s not looking very likely. Frankly, the centres are either going to have to be sold at a lower price or have capital injected in order to regenerate and we don’t see banks having an appetite for that.”

“These are big tracts of land, occupying a central space in towns,” he said.

“You could see increasing vandalism, increasing crime, with a knock-on impact on infrastructure. I’m not suggesting every town is going to face these problems but we need to stop the rot.”

“Politicians need to come up with a plan to kick-start the regeneration of shopping centres,” he added.

A government spokesman said: “It’s true that high streets are changing, like they always have, and we’re committed to helping communities adapt.”

They said the government had put together an “expert panel” to “diagnose the issues affecting the high street and develop recommendations that will help them thrive”.


Image copyright Lidl
Image caption This site in Richmond, London, will be occupied by both a store and a school

The future of shopping centres

The trend of closing shopping centres is fairly well-known in the US, where “dead mall” or “ghost mall” is the term that describes the decaying edifices left when mainstream department stores have moved out.

“Many of the challenges facing shopping centres in the UK are mirrored in the USA,” said Mr Blackley.

Centres that have prospered, he said, have been canny about expanding their offer.

“UK shopping centres must change if they are to survive,” according to Mr Blackley.

“They need to think like a hospitality brand. There has been a marked shift to the ‘experience economy’, and an increase in spend on food and beverage, which is now accounting for over 20% of total spend in some of the newest schemes.

“Some of the big centres in the UK are incorporating Sea Life Centres, ice rinks, indoor ski slopes. These are the shopping centres that, in my view, will survive.

“There’s no doubt that if shopping centres don’t deliver an experience consumers want, they will fall by the wayside.”

Image copyright Jason Lock
Image caption Shopping centres should incorporate visitor attractions such as Sea Life, according to the experts

Some of the other visions for the future are similarly radical.

Mr Mead, head of shopping centre asset management at APAM, said community facilities such as libraries, medical centres and even schools could all sit within retail complexes.

“In Richmond, a new school is being built above a Lidl store, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” he said.

“What people like about shopping centres is that they are centrally located with good transport links. The NHS has expressed interest in having a presence in some centres. With a chemist and other retailers already located there, it would be like a one-stop shop in the town centre.

“The problem is, these centres are run by investors who have a short-term approach and haven’t the skill-sets or investments to embrace the kind of changes required. There needs to be a joint venture created with local communities to fix the problem.”


Image copyright Shearer Property Group
Image caption Coventry’s plans for its centre are seen as a positive move for the city

In recent months, some local authorities have bought unloved shopping centres from investors keen to offload them.

“In February 2018, Canterbury City Council struck one of the largest shopping centre deals involving a council on record, taking full control of Whitefriars Shopping Centre in the city,” said Mr Blackley.

“The local authority bought out global fund manager TH Real Estate’s 50% stake for £75m.”

In Shrewsbury, Shropshire Council bought three centres – including one that was neglected – to “support economic growth and regeneration” in the town centre.

Whether such schemes will work depends on the passion and vision of the authorities concerned and whether they are able to secure private investment.

Image copyright Jack Alford

In Coventry, the city council’s plan to work with private investors to redevelop its post-war shopping precincts is seen as a good example of how to revive a shopping centre.

“But such investments by councils do risk public money,” said Mr Blackley.

“In too many cases, councils are trying to plug a gap and I don’t think that is sustainable long term.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminOver 200 shopping centres ‘in crisis’
read more

UK’s ‘unhealthiest’ High Streets revealed

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Fast food outlets in Blackpool, which has the third most unhealthy High Street in the UK

Britain’s High Streets are getting unhealthier, according to a report analysing 70 major UK towns and cities.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) ranked High Streets with more payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets the worst.

There was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy High Streets.

Grimsby led the unhealthy High Street list ahead of Walsall and Blackpool, while Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton had the healthiest outlets.

Outlets that were considered good for people included leisure centres, health services, libraries and museums and art galleries.

The report also considered pubs and bars as being good for people, because they are centres for social interaction.

However, they are in decline and many people are using the UK’s 22,000 coffee shops as places to socialise, eat and drink instead.

The number of fast-food outlets on UK streets rose by 4,000 between 2014 and 2017 and there was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy High Streets.

London’s High Streets were not considered in the report, as they have been ranked separately in the city.

Each business was scored on the basis of whether it encouraged healthy lifestyle choices, promoted social interaction and greater access to health services.

The UK’s 10 unhealthiest High Streets are:

  • Grimsby
  • Walsall
  • Blackpool
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunderland
  • Northampton
  • Bolton
  • Wolverhampton
  • Huddersfield
  • Bradford

The UK’s 10 healthiest High Streets are:

  • Edinburgh
  • Canterbury
  • Taunton
  • Shrewsbury
  • Cheltenham
  • York
  • Brighton & Hove
  • Eastbourne
  • Exeter
  • Cambridge

The report paints a picture of the rapidly changing British High Street dominated by cafes and coffee shops, convenience stores, off-licences, vape shops and boarded-up premises.

Vape shops were counted as a “healthier” business, because of their role in discouraging smoking. However, the report added the “precise long-term effects of vaping are unknown”.

Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive said: “When our time and money are converted into a loss at the bookmaker, a tan from a sunbed, a high-cost loan or a bucket of fried chicken, the High Street is enabling and supporting poor health behaviours.

“Our Health on the High Street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy.

“Reshaping these High Streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance.”

Image copyright RCPH
Image caption Canterbury has the second healthiest High Street in the country
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Empty businesses on Freeman Street in Grimsby, which used to be the town’s main shopping area

The rise in online retail is linked to the growing numbers of empty premises, which have increased from 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

This year the High Street has seen several big name closures including Toys R Us and Maplin and, in this week’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond cut the business rates for small retailers, and proposed a new tax on online retailers in an effort to boost physical shops.

Image copyright RSPH
Image caption An empty shop in Grimsby

However industry bodies said the changes didn’t go far enough.

The RSPH is calling for further measures including urging local authorities to make vacant properties publicly accessible for what is known as “meanwhile use” – pop-up art galleries or community centres.

The London rankings showed that the borough of Haringey boasted both the most unhealthy street, West Green Road in Seven Sisters, and the healthiest one, in Muswell Hill.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminUK’s ‘unhealthiest’ High Streets revealed
read more

Vaping kits for prisoners to cost 150,000

Image caption Vaping kits were handed out by the prison service ahead of the ban coming into force

More than £100,000 has been spent buying vaping kits for inmates in Scottish jails, it has emerged.

It follows a nationwide ban on smoking in prisons which came into force at the end of November.

The Scottish Prisoner Service has given out about 7,500 of the vaping kits.

It said it would make long-term savings through improvements to the health of staff and prisoners. However, campaigners have questioned whether this is good value for money.

About 72% of inmates smoke compared with 16% of Scots in the wider population.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Request, the SPS said it expected the total cost of the vaping kit scheme to be about £150,000.

Image caption The kits cost about £14 and include a pen, charger and pack of three flavoured liquids

Each vaping kit supplied by the prison service – which includes a pen, a charger and a pack of three flavoured liquids – costs £14.

“It’s a very positive step for the well-being of the people in our care and the people who work for us,” said SPS spokesman Tom Fox.

“I think it’s money well spent. The health benefits for our staff and those in our care greatly outweigh any initial cost we have introducing the programme.”

The air quality in prisons has risen by an average of 80% since smoking was banned, according to the SPS.

Image caption The SPS says air quality in prisons has improved since smoking was banned

BBC Scotland spoke to some female inmates at HMP Edinburgh who said they were not in favour of the smoking ban, but that the vaping kits made it more bearable.

“There’s not been a lot of trouble, or anything like that, since the smoking ban came in, which you would expect,” said one prisoner.

“And that’s down to the fact we have had the vapes.”

Another added: “If we didn’t have the vapes, there would have been all sorts of trouble.”

However, the prisoners did raise the issue of the cost of refills.

“It’s costing us more money and some lassies in here can’t afford that,” said one.

Image caption Campaigners have argued prisoners should still be allowed to smoke in designated areas

“But at the same time, it’s a good thing for our health.”

Simon Clark, director of pro-smoking pressure group Forest, said he believed the prison smoking ban went too far.

“At the very least, inmates should be allowed to light up outside, in an exercise yard or designated smoking area,” he said.

“Vaping may satisfy some prisoners but for many people vaping is still no substitute for smoking.

“Why not offer e-cigarettes to those who want to quit and allow them to vape in their cells, but permit designated smoking areas for those who prefer to smoke?”

‘Black market’

Pete White, chief executive of the charity Positive Prison? Positive Futures, which campaigns for the rights of prisoners, said a black market had already developed within Scottish prisons.

“There seems to have been quite a high take up of the vaping devices supplied by the SPS and, for some people, the ban represented an opportunity to give up smoking,” he said.

“But there are reports that tempers seem to be a bit shorter for some and that the black market price of tobacco, papers and lighters has rocketed.

“A half-ounce of tobacco is now reported to be on sale for over £100, papers for £15 and lighters around £50.”

Inmates will be expected to pay for their own vaping pens and liquids from April this year.

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminVaping kits for prisoners to cost 150,000
read more

Are we living in a ‘nanny state’?

Image copyright Getty Images

Whether it is forcing restaurants in England to print calorie counts on menus or banning energy drinks for under-18s, the government is full of ideas about how to protect people from themselves.

Conservative politicians used to hate this kind of stuff. They called it the “nanny state” – conjuring images of a finger-wagging, bossy government forever telling us all what to do.

Margaret Thatcher – to her critics the epitome of a bossy, finger-wagging prime minister – often took aim at the “nanny state”.

But one of the earliest uses of the phrase in Parliament came in 1980 during a debate on plans to make the wearing of car seatbelts, for drivers and front seat passengers, compulsory.

Former World War One fighter ace, and Conservative peer, Lord Balfour of Inchrye argued with great passion that seatbelts “can kill”.

But his main objection to the plan was that it was “yet another state narrowing of individual freedom and individual responsibility”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lord Balfour is strapped into a glider – with a seatbelt – on a visit to the Air Training Corps in 1942

Where would it all end, he wondered in a speech in the House of Lords.

“There are I believe 60,000 deaths a year from lung cancer. I cannot remember the starting of any pressure group formed of the medical community for compulsion on this matter.

“Regarding alcohol, there is possible legislation to limit the amount and conditions in which alcohol is taken which may reduce the terrible tragedy of bodies broken and constitutions wrecked by alcohol. I do not believe that the medical people have lobbied for compulsion there.

“Therefore, if we are to have what I term the ‘nanny state’… why do not the medical lobby go for compulsory wearing of life jackets for people who swim, sail and row in boats?”

How times have changed.

Restrictions on the sale and advertising of cigarettes, like the compulsory wearing of seatbelts, have long since become law, spurred on by the medical lobby that was invisible to Lord Balfour, with curbs on alcohol consumption, through minimum unit pricing, coming down the track.

In some cases, these laws were passed by Conservative governments.

Swimmers have yet to be made to wear life jackets – but the idea that the state can, and should, use its power to force people to make better choices about their health and safety is accepted as a good thing across the political spectrum.

Supporters can point to the many lives that have been saved and how the public has, by and large, accepted curbs on what now seem like reckless, or downright dangerous, behaviours.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption‘Wood burning Gove’: Truss fumes at cabinet colleague

Indeed, health campaigners and opposition parties argue that Theresa May’s government – for all its commitment to cutting smoking rates and tackling childhood obesity – remains far too fond of industry self-regulation and not willing to take the tough legislative action needed to make a real difference.

But are there signs that the tide is turning on the Conservative benches? Is the ghost of Lord Balfour, who died in 1988, aged 90, haunting the corridors of power?

In the run-up to the Conservative Party conference, former minister and leading Brexiteer Priti Patel criticised the prime minister for leading a “nanny state government”, which she claimed was more interested in banning things than implementing Conservative policies.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss – who has criticised the restaurant menu plan and called for motorway speed limits to be increased to 80mph – grabbed headlines in June when she took a swipe at cabinet colleague Michael Gove’s proposed ban on wood burning stoves.

It is not the government’s job “to tell us what our tastes should be”, she said in a speech.

“Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves – I mean stoves.

“I can see their point: there’s enough hot air and smoke at the environment department already.”

Christopher Snowdon, of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a free market think tank which is reported to have received funding from the tobacco industry, said other Conservative MPs were similarly uneasy about what they see as the bossy tone of government initiatives, although few have been willing to go on the record about it.

Mr Snowdon is a longstanding campaigner against the “nanny state”. He even compiles an annual league table of the most “nannying” countries – which last year saw the UK coming second behind Finland as the “worst country in which to eat, drink, smoke and vape in the EU”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Smoking in pubs was banned in 2007 by a Labour government

His ultra-libertarian views – he says he would have no problem with legalising all drugs, for example – puts him at odds with Theresa May and the rest of the Tory leadership, as well as mainstream opinion in Labour and just about every other party at Westminster.

He argues that they have all misread the mood of the public, who, he claims, are growing increasingly “fed up” with being told how to live their lives.

“I think there is a public backlash but it may not always be reflected in the media,” he says.

It is mostly the poor and marginalised – people who don’t always have a voice at Westminster – who bear the brunt of increased taxes on food, alcohol and tobacco, he argues.

Banning things is “very easy and cheap to do”, he says, and it makes an immediate impact on people’s lives – an irresistible combination for politicians looking to make a name for themselves.

Image copyright ASH
Image caption But the Conservatives have continued to crack down on tobacco

Dolly Theis, a Conservative candidate at last year’s general election, and a policy expert in public health, says that far from restricting freedom of choice, the government’s childhood obesity strategy, which aims to ban the sale of fatty and sugary foods at supermarket checkouts among other things, is about increasing choice.

Few people decide “I want to be obese” but their choices can be limited by their economic circumstances, she says.

“By the age of five, children in poverty are twice as likely to be obese as their least deprived peers, and by the age of 11 they are three times as likely,” she wrote in a paper for the Bright Blue think tank.

“They are also more likely to live in an area with more takeaway and fast food outlets; more likely to live in poor, unsuitable or overcrowded housing; and more likely to experience a combination of family breakdown, stress, mental health issues and financial problems – all factors which can impair parents’ ability to make rational and compassionate decisions.”

The childhood obesity strategy, she claims, marks a significant shift “away from viewing childhood obesity as an issue of poor personal choice, towards understanding that our environment, socioeconomic circumstances, education and the influence of the food and drinks industry, dictate the choices we are presented with”.

Cutting obesity will also save the NHS millions in the longer term, reducing the need to increase taxes – another key Conservative priority, she adds.

But cabinet tensions over how far the government should go in its efforts to improve public health, and what tone it should adopt, suggests the debate in the party is far from settled.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminAre we living in a ‘nanny state’?
read more

UK’s ‘unhealthiest’ High Streets revealed

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Fast food outlets in Blackpool, which has the third most unhealthy High Street in the UK

Britain’s High Streets are getting unhealthier, according to a report analysing 70 major UK towns and cities.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) ranked High Streets with more payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets the worst.

There was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy High Streets.

Grimsby led the unhealthy High Street list ahead of Walsall and Blackpool, while Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton had the healthiest outlets.

Outlets that were considered good for people included leisure centres, health services, libraries and museums and art galleries.

The report also considered pubs and bars as being good for people, because they are centres for social interaction.

However, they are in decline and many people are using the UK’s 22,000 coffee shops as places to socialise, eat and drink instead.

The number of fast-food outlets on UK streets rose by 4,000 between 2014 and 2017 and there was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy High Streets.

London’s High Streets were not considered in the report, as they have been ranked separately in the city.

Each business was scored on the basis of whether it encouraged healthy lifestyle choices, promoted social interaction and greater access to health services.

The UK’s 10 unhealthiest High Streets are:

  • Grimsby
  • Walsall
  • Blackpool
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sunderland
  • Northampton
  • Bolton
  • Wolverhampton
  • Huddersfield
  • Bradford

The UK’s 10 healthiest High Streets are:

  • Edinburgh
  • Canterbury
  • Taunton
  • Shrewsbury
  • Cheltenham
  • York
  • Brighton & Hove
  • Eastbourne
  • Exeter
  • Cambridge

The report paints a picture of the rapidly changing British High Street dominated by cafes and coffee shops, convenience stores, off-licences, vape shops and boarded-up premises.

Vape shops were counted as a “healthier” business, because of their role in discouraging smoking. However, the report added the “precise long-term effects of vaping are unknown”.

Shirley Cramer, RSPH chief executive said: “When our time and money are converted into a loss at the bookmaker, a tan from a sunbed, a high-cost loan or a bucket of fried chicken, the High Street is enabling and supporting poor health behaviours.

“Our Health on the High Street rankings illustrate how unhealthy businesses concentrate in areas which already experience higher levels of deprivation, obesity and lower life expectancy.

“Reshaping these High Streets to be more health-promoting could serve as a tool to help redress this imbalance.”

Image copyright RCPH
Image caption Canterbury has the second healthiest High Street in the country
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Empty businesses on Freeman Street in Grimsby, which used to be the town’s main shopping area

The rise in online retail is linked to the growing numbers of empty premises, which have increased from 7% in 2007 to 11% in 2017.

This year the High Street has seen several big name closures including Toys R Us and Maplin and, in this week’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond cut the business rates for small retailers, and proposed a new tax on online retailers in an effort to boost physical shops.

Image copyright RSPH
Image caption An empty shop in Grimsby

However industry bodies said the changes didn’t go far enough.

The RSPH is calling for further measures including urging local authorities to make vacant properties publicly accessible for what is known as “meanwhile use” – pop-up art galleries or community centres.

The London rankings showed that the borough of Haringey boasted both the most unhealthy street, West Green Road in Seven Sisters, and the healthiest one, in Muswell Hill.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminUK’s ‘unhealthiest’ High Streets revealed
read more

Over 200 shopping centres ‘in crisis’

Image copyright Jack Alford
Image caption The crisis comes in a climate during which several high street retailers have fallen into administration

More than 200 UK shopping centres are in danger of falling into administration, experts are warning.

Analyst Nelson Blackley said the demise of “major anchor stores” such as BHS and Toys R Us, and the rise of online retail, had caused a “downward spiral”.

Many of the at-risk centres are owned by US private equity firms under deals that will need refinancing.

“If centres close, particularly in small towns, it will be catastrophic,” Mr Blackley warned.

The Department for Communities said it was “committed to helping communities adapt”.

Mr Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, said the UK had an excess of shopping centres with similar retail offerings.

“We have too many of them, doing exactly the same – the same range of stores and products – and basically that’s not attractive,” he said.

New data suggests over 200 shopping centres in the UK are in danger of falling into administration, unless their owners secure fresh funding.”

He added the growth of online retail in the UK – on sites such as Amazon – had been faster than in almost any other retail market in the world.

“If the major anchor store moves out, that has a halo effect on other stores in that centre. It’s a downward spiral and you can’t fill shopping centres with nail bars and vape shops.”

Mr Blackley, who is based at Nottingham Trent University’s Nottingham Business School, pointed to research in the Financial Times that suggested about £2.5bn worth of shopping centres and retail parks are up for sale in towns and cities across the UK.

Image copyright Getty Images

“Some of this marketing is unofficial and not in the public domain,” he said.

“It’s a trend that’s moving very quickly. You don’t necessarily want to be in the business of owning shopping centres at the moment.

“People are suggesting a number of leading national retailers are on the edge and may close and that would bring shopping centres down with them.

“The collapse of BHS, two years ago, left empty units in around 200 shopping centres and more than half of those large, empty units have not yet been filled.”


Image caption Nottingham’s Broadmarsh Centre has been awaiting redevelopment for 15 years

Centres stagnating?

Residents have spoken to the BBC about their concerns regarding a number of shopping centres up and down the country, where they feel empty units and an apparent lack of investment have led to stagnation.

  • Kettering’s Newlands Centre, which is backed by private equity, has seen the closure of a number of outlets including names like WH Smith. “It’s a sad scene at the moment,” said Paul Ansell, chair of the town’s civic society. “There is a cycle of shops opening and closing and I’m not sure what they can do to improve it.”
  • The Guildhall in Stafford, also backed by a private equity group, has seen many retailers vacate the centre in favour of the town’s new Riverside complex. “We are concerned it’s not as vibrant and active as it was,” said William Read, of the Stafford Historical and Civic Society. “I walked through there the other day and about 15-20% of the units are empty.” Both private equity groups have been contacted for a comment.
  • The Broadmarsh in Nottingham is owned by Intu – currently the subject of a takeover bid – which operates shopping centres across the UK. While it does not face the same issues as private-equity backed centres, Mr Blackley said it offers “about as bad a retail experience as you can get without the centre physically closing”. Nigel Wheatley, the centre’s general manager, said preparations were under way for its “exciting transformation”.

The research to identify “at-risk” centres was carried out by asset management firm APAM, which said it had found many of the affected centres had been the subject of short-term speculative deals.

Executive director Simon Cooke said: “We think these shopping centres have been hit with the perfect storm of defaulting retail markets, weaker consumer spending, the impact of the internet and rising rents and rates, making it very difficult for retailers to trade and make a profit.

“We perceive many of these borrowers beginning to breach land covenants. One centre in Maidenhead has already fallen into administration.”

Image caption Some cities plan to work with developers to develop their centres

Mr Cooke said most of the centres “in crisis” were the subject of deals that are due to be refinanced.

“They have to return money to their investors,” said Mr Cooke. “That’s not looking very likely. Frankly, the centres are either going to have to be sold at a lower price or have capital injected in order to regenerate and we don’t see banks having an appetite for that.”

Without reinvestment, Mr Blackley said the impact on communities – particularly small towns – could be stark.

Mr Cooke agrees: “These are big tracts of land, occupying a central space in towns,” he said.

“You could see increasing vandalism, increasing crime, with a knock-on impact on infrastructure.

“I’m not suggesting every town is going to face these problems but we need to stop the rot.”

He called on the government to address the situation.

“Politicians need to come up with a plan to kick-start the regeneration of shopping centres,” he said.

A government spokesperson said: “It’s true that high streets are changing, like they always have, and we’re committed to helping communities adapt.”

The spokesperson said the government had assembled an “expert panel” to “diagnose the issues currently affecting the high street and develop recommendations that will help them thrive”.


Image copyright Lidl
Image caption This site in Richmond, London, will be occupied by both a store and a school

The future of shopping centres

The trend of closing shopping centres is fairly well-known in the US, where “dead mall” or “ghost mall” is the term that describes the decaying edifices left when mainstream department stores have moved out.

“Many of the challenges facing shopping centres in the UK are mirrored in the USA,” said Mr Blackley.

Centres that have prospered, he said, have been canny about expanding their offer.

“UK shopping centres must change if they are to survive,” according to Mr Blackley.

“They need to think like a hospitality brand. There has been a marked shift to the ‘experience economy’, and an increase in spend on food and beverage, which is now accounting for over 20% of total spend in some of the newest schemes.

“Some of the big centres in the UK are incorporating Sea Life Centres, ice rinks, indoor ski slopes. These are the shopping centres that, in my view, will survive.

“There’s no doubt that if shopping centres don’t deliver an experience consumers want, they will fall by the wayside.”

Image copyright Jason Lock
Image caption Shopping centres should incorporate visitor attractions such as Sea Life, according to the experts

Some of the other visions for the future are similarly radical.

Daniel Mead, head of shopping centre asset management at APAM, said community facilities such as libraries, medical centres and even schools could all sit within retail complexes.

“In Richmond, a new school is being built above a Lidl store, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility,” he said.

“What people like about shopping centres is that they are centrally located with good transport links. The NHS has expressed interest in having a presence in some centres. With a chemist and other retailers already located there, it would be like a one-stop shop in the town centre.

“The problem is, these centres are run by investors who have a short-term approach and haven’t the skill-sets or investments to embrace the kind of changes required. There needs to be a joint venture created with local communities to fix the problem.”


Image copyright Shearer Property Group
Image caption Coventry’s plans for its centre are seen as a positive move for the city

In recent months, some local authorities have bought unloved shopping centres from investors keen to offload them.

“In February 2018, Canterbury City Council struck one of the largest shopping centre deals involving a council on record, taking full control of Whitefriars Shopping Centre in the city,” said Mr Blackley.

“The local authority bought out global fund manager TH Real Estate’s 50% stake for £75m.”

In Shrewsbury, Shropshire County Council bought three neglected centres to “support economic growth and regeneration” in the town centre.

Whether such schemes will work depends on the passion and vision of the authorities concerned and whether they are able to secure private investment.

Image copyright Jack Alford

In Coventry, the city council’s plan to work with private investors to redevelop its post-war shopping precincts is seen as a good example of how to revive a shopping centre.

“But such investments by councils do risk public money,” said Mr Blackley.

“In too many cases, councils are trying to plug a gap and I don’t think that is sustainable long term.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminOver 200 shopping centres ‘in crisis’
read more

Vaping good, bad or not clear?

Image copyright Getty Images

A new report from MPs has certainly generated a new talking point – not least among vapers and smokers taking a break from their desks.

It has raised again the questions of whether e-cigarettes are a positive force for public health and whether they could yet cause harm to users. Both it seems could be true.

The Commons’ science and technology committee comes down strongly in favour of vaping as a vehicle to help smokers quit.

Its report says that about 470,000 smokers are using them as an aid to help them give up the habit and tens of thousands are successfully quitting each year.

The MPs believe transport and other public places should be more sympathetic to vaping. That means not bracketing e-cig users with smokers and banishing them to the street.

One tweet on Friday morning underlined the frustration of one rail traveller: “No-one on the platform and it’s totally uncovered. I was vaping. A guard walked 100 yards and told me it’s not allowed. I said ‘but it’s open air and there’s no-one about. Rules are rules’ he said!”

On the other hand, some of those who don’t smoke or vape take exception to the idea of being in close proximity to an e-cigarette user.

To quote another tweet: “Not in public places please – I don’t want my world filled with sweet smelling clouds of vapour. All mixed together from different peoples tastes. Yuk!”

People of this persuasion might not be happy to hear that the committee advocates “non-vapers having to accommodate vapers”.

So is vaping safe?

There is no definitive answer to that.

The clinical regulator, NICE, makes the point that as e-cigarettes have only been on the market for about a decade, there is no authoritative research yet available. It may take several more years for such research to emerge which can show beyond doubt that vaping does not affect users’ lungs or other aspects of their health.

This then is a debate about whether clear gains now in terms of getting smokers off tobacco might be outweighed in future by adverse health effects which only emerge after detailed research.

Image copyright Getty Images

The MPs on the committee, public health authorities and many health campaigners are strongly of the view that fairly certain gains now are more important than a possible long-term risk.

Critics are adamant that it’s too soon to give a clear-cut message to consumers.

The MPs also want to see a clearer lead from the NHS in advocating e-cigarettes. They are disappointed that a third of mental health trusts in England won’t allow vaping on their premises, even though smoking among people with mental health conditions is much higher than for the general population.

At smoking cessation clinics some local authorities suggest vaping, but others don’t.

The committee also wants to see more e-cigarette brands cleared for medicinal use. This would allow GPs to recommend or even prescribe them if they wished, subject to the views of their commissioning groups.

There is one brand, eVoke, which has had such approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency but, curiously, it has not yet been marketed to consumers.

Intriguingly, the company which owns the brand is British American Tobacco. Company sources have indicated that the brand is “not likely” to be taken any further as the vaping market has moved on since eVoke was developed and consumer preferences have changed.

This is still a debate clouded with uncertainty but the select committee report has allowed some of the fog to clear.

It has moved smoking higher up the agenda of important public health issues, with growing pressure on NHS leaders and ministers to think about a way forward.

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminVaping good, bad or not clear?
read more

Tobacco firm attacked for anti-smoking ad

Image copyright solidcolours/Getty

One of the world’s biggest tobacco firms, Philip Morris, has been accused of “staggering hypocrisy” over its new ad campaign that urges smokers to quit.

The Marlboro maker said the move was “an important next step” in its aim to “ultimately stop selling cigarettes”.

But Cancer Research said the firm was simply trying to promote its smoking alternatives, such as heated tobacco.

“This is a staggering hypocrisy,” it said, pointing out the firm still promotes smoking outside the UK.

“The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes,” George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager said.

The charity said smoking was the leading preventable cause of cancer and it encouraged people to switch away completely from smoking, including through the use of e-cigarettes.

Health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) also criticised the campaign – which includes a four-page wraparound on Monday’s Daily Mirror – saying it was a way for Philip Morris to get around the UK’s anti-tobacco advertising rules.

Most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion in the UK are banned, and rules introduced last year mean cigarettes and tobacco must be sold in plain green packets.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said Philip Morris was still advertising its Marlboro brand wherever globally it was legal to do so.

“The fact of the matter is that it can no longer do that in the UK, we’re a dark market where all advertising, promotion and sponsorship is banned, and cigarettes are in plain packs.

“So instead Philip Morris is promoting the company name which is inextricably linked with Marlboro,” she said.

Image copyright Science Photo Library

Philip Morris has said previously that it wants to achieve a “smoke-free” future.

Like many tobacco firms, Philip Morris is moving towards a focus on new products to replace cigarettes as the number of smokers in the UK continues to decline.

In the UK, it markets several alternatives to cigarettes, including a heated tobacco product, Iqos.

It also owns the Nicocig, Vivid and Mesh e-cigarette brands.

‘It takes time’

The firm’s managing director Peter Nixon said its new advertising campaign was “about supporting smokers in finding alternatives”.

Asked why, if Philip Morris was so keen for smokers to quit, it did not simply stop making cigarettes and focus entirely on alternative products, he said it was because then smokers would then just switch to a rival product.

“Cigarettes still generate 87% of our business. We want to get to [smoke-free] as soon as possible, and we want to be selling alternatives, but it does take time,” he said.

Mr Nixon said the firm had invested over £4bn in developing alternative products to cigarettes.

The campaign suggests four ways to give up cigarettes, including going cold turkey, using nicotine patches, vaping and using heated tobacco products.

In July last year, the government set out a plan to make England, in effect, smoke-free in the next few decades.

The new Tobacco Control Plan aimed to cut smoking rates from 15.5% to 12% of the population by 2022.

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminTobacco firm attacked for anti-smoking ad
read more

Vaping on buses ‘should be considered’

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Around 470,000 people are using e-cigarettes as an aid to stop smoking

Rules around e-cigarettes should be relaxed so they can be more widely used and accepted in society, says a report by MPs.

Vaping is much less harmful than normal cigarettes and e-cigarettes should be made available on prescription to help more people quit smoking, it said.

The report also asks the government to consider their use on buses and trains.

There is no evidence e-cigarettes are a gateway into smoking for young people, Public Health England said.

The report on e-cigarettes, by the science and technology MPs’ committee, said they were too often overlooked by the NHS as a tool to help people stop smoking.

For example, it said it was “unacceptable” that a third of the 50 NHS mental health trusts in England had a ban on e-cigarettes on their premises, when there was a “negligible health risk” from second hand e-cigarette vapour.

What else do the MPs say?

In the report they call for:

  • greater freedom for industry to advertise e-cigarettes
  • relaxing of regulations and tax duties on e-cigarettes to reflect their relative health benefits
  • an annual review of the health effects of e-cigarettes, as well as heat-not-burn products
  • a debate on vaping in public spaces, such as on public transport and in offices
  • e-cigarettes licensed as medical devices
  • a rethink on limits on refill strengths and tank sizes
  • an end to the ban on snus – an oral tobacco product which is illegal in the UK under EU rules

How popular has vaping become?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption“Relief my son turned to vaping” – Norman Lamb

About 2.9 million people in the UK are currently using e-cigarettes.

It is estimated that 470,000 people are using them as an aid to stop smoking and tens of thousands are successfully quitting smoking each year as a result.

Although the report recognised the long-term health effects of vaping were not yet known, it said e-cigarettes were substantially less harmful than conventional cigarettes because they contained no tar or carbon monoxide.

Norman Lamb, chairman of the science and technology committee, said: “Current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same.

“There is no public health rationale for doing so,” he said.

“Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised.

“If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop-smoking arsenal.”

Mr Lamb said medically licensed e-cigarettes “would make it easier for doctors to discuss and recommend them as a stop-smoking tool to aid those quitting smoking”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MPs want greater freedom for industry to advertise e-cigarettes

The debate on e-cigarettes

The report is the latest in a long-running debate about e-cigarettes and how they are used in society.

A survey in Scotland found that young people who use e-cigarettes could be more likely to later smoke tobacco.

And in Wales, concerns have been raised about young people using e-cigarettes on a regular basis.

But elsewhere, a six month trial at an Isle of Man jail found allowing inmates to smoke e-cigarettes made them calmer and helped them quit smoking.

More research is needed to better understand the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, after early research on lung cells in the lab suggested that the vapour may not be completely safe.

But there is general agreement among public health experts, doctors and scientists that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than normal cigarettes containing tobacco.

Where are you not allowed to vape?

E-cigarettes are not covered by the smoking legislation which bans the use of cigarettes in all enclosed public and work places.

In fact, to encourage smokers to switch to vaping, Public Health England recommends e-cigarettes should not be treated the same as regular cigarettes when it comes to workplaces devising smoking policies.

“Vaping,” the authority said, “should be made a more convenient as well as safer option”.

But some places have banned vaping. For example, Transport for London forbids the use of e-cigarettes on all buses and the Underground, including at stations.

Big cinema chains such as Cineworld, Odeon and Empire also ban smoking e-cigarettes anywhere on their premises while most theatres also forbid their use.

Most airlines and airports ban vaping, apart from in designated smoking areas.

What is the response to the MPs’ report?

Public Health England estimates that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than normal cigarettes.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said: “E-cigarettes are not without harm but are way safer than the harms of tobacco.

“There is no evidence that they are acting as a gateway into smoking for young people.

“We want to see a tobacco-free generation within 10 years and this is within sight.”

The charity Action on Smoking and Health welcomed the report but said it had some concerns over rule changes on advertising, which could mean tobacco companies being allowed to market their e-cigarettes in packs of cigarettes.

George Butterworth, from Cancer Research UK, said any changes to current e-cigarette regulations “should be aimed at helping smokers to quit whilst preventing young people from starting to use e-cigarettes”.

Prof Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, said: “This report is a welcome and evidence-based respite from all the scare stories we see about vaping.

“Its recommendations are not likely to be popular with all, and some of them may be difficult or complex to implement. But government, regulators and service providers should take note.”

What do the public say?

There are some strong opinions on Twitter in reaction to the idea of allowing vaping on public transport.

Richard Walker, 44, says vaping has helped him to give up smoking.

He smoked around 30 to 40 cigarettes a day for 23 years but gave up tobacco 12 weeks ago.

“I have used patches and lozenges to aid my attempt and I vape using oils with low nicotine content.

“I can honestly say that using a vape has helped me to stop smoking.

“During my cessation meeting with the nurse specialist, my carbon monoxide reading was 32 which classed me as a heavy smoker.

“My carbon monoxide reading is now two – non-smoker.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminVaping on buses ‘should be considered’
read more

E-cigarettes ‘more harmful than we think’

Image copyright Getty Images

Vaping can damage vital immune system cells and may be more harmful than previously thought, a study suggests.

Researchers found e-cigarette vapour disabled important immune cells in the lung and boosted inflammation.

The researchers “caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe”.

However, Public Health England advises they are much less harmful than smoking and people should not hesitate to use them as an aid to giving up cigarettes.

The small experimental study, led by Prof David Thickett, at the University of Birmingham, is published online in the journal Thorax.

Previous studies have focused on the chemical composition of e-cigarette liquid before it is vaped.

In this study, the researchers devised a mechanical procedure to mimic vaping in the laboratory, using lung tissue samples provided by eight non-smokers.

They found vapour caused inflammation and impaired the activity of alveolar macrophages, cells that remove potentially damaging dust particles, bacteria and allergens.

They said some of the effects were similar to those seen in regular smokers and people with chronic lung disease.

They caution the results are only in laboratory conditions and advise further research is needed to better understand the long-term health impact – the changes recorded took place only over 48 hours.

Image copyright Getty Images

An independent review of the latest evidence on e-cigarettes was published by Public Health England in February.

The review concluded there was “overwhelming evidence” they were far safer than smoking and “of negligible risk to bystanders” and advised they should be available on prescription because of how successful they had been in helping people give up smoking.

Prof Thickett said while e-cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes, they may still be harmful in the long-term as research was in its infancy.

“In terms of cancer causing molecules in cigarette smoke, as opposed to cigarette vapour, there are certainly reduced numbers of carcinogens,” he said.

“They are safer in terms of cancer risk – but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], then that’s something we need to know about.

“I don’t believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes – but we should have a cautious scepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe.”

Martin Dockrell, tobacco control lead at Public Health England, said: “E-cigarettes are not 100% risk-free but they are clearly much less harmful than smoking.

“Any smoker considering e-cigarettes should switch completely without delay.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk

adminadminE-cigarettes ‘more harmful than we think’
read more