To keep the malls relevant, Scentre completed a record 3409 lease deals during the year, an increase of 912 on the year prior. This included 2232 renewals and 1177 new merchants, of which 288 are new brands to the portfolio.
For the year, the retail landlord reported funds from operations (FFO) of $1.04 billion, up 20.6 per cent on the 2022 year, and a final distribution of 8.2¢, taking the annual payment to15.75¢, payable on February 28.
Total occupancy was 98.9 per cent, with dining, fashion, health and beauty and jewellery tenants all recording sales growth of close to 30 per cent over the year. The much-maligned department and discount department sales were also stronger at 17 per cent and 21.1 per cent respectively.
Scentre Group also has a hefty development pipeline, and in the past year completed Stage 1 of the $355 million investment in Westfield Knox in Melbourne, including new Woolworths and ALDI supermarkets which opened in December 2022.
There has also been upgrades at Westfield Mt Druitt, including a new rooftop dining, entertainment and leisure precinct, and at Westfield Penrith, with a new fresh food precinct featuring Coles, ALDI, and a Tong Li supermarket.
Rusanow said there was also evidence that shoppers prefer to come back to bricks and mortar stores, and tenants are responding by offering interactive experiences and a wider range of goods that can’t be bought online.
“What we saw during last year is that that level of penetration of online actually reduced back to pre-pandemic levels. And people are happy to leave their homes and come out and interact on a physical level,” he said.
In a recent survey of retailers by CBRE, it reveals there are new store openings on the drawing board amid a renewed focus on bricks-and-mortar outlets.
Of the Australian retailers polled for CBRE’s APAC Retail Flash Survey, 83 per cent plan to open more stores this year, with just 6 per cent planning to decrease their network size.
CBRE head of retail research, Australia, Kate Bailey said one-third of the retailers polled also plan to increase the size of their store footprints, to build more experiential elements into their stores and to capitalise on the easing in rents that occurred over the past three years.
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