This morning’s news of the takeover of Intu by Hammerson is very positive. I have been warning of the inevitable consequences of relentless capacity expansion for well over 10 years and found the real estate side of the retail industry the slowest to understand. This deal involves two companies that get it and have the vision and courage to act.
Today, 23% of non-food sales already goes through online, a channel that has grown from zero in more less 15 years. In the bricks and mortar world, trading space has continued to expand, albeit at a progressively slowing rate. However, online has failed to materially make the spending cake bigger. With consumer spend in retail more or less flat, something has to give. The industry is seriously over-supplied, and getting more so by the month. The vast majority of retailers have too many stores and one way or another, this has to change.
I think this deal recognises reality and its implications. The enlarged company will be better able to take some tough decisions on editing capacity. It will also be better placed to deal with the implications of retailer distress that will characterise next year’s market. I expect to see more casualties, administrations and CVAs. The enlarged business will be much better placed to play a pro-active role in this reconfiguration of industry capacity.
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