The chairman of Town Centre Securities has warned that the retail industry faces an even tougher year in 2012 as customers continue to be cautious over spending.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post at the firm’s annual general meeting yesterday, Edward Ziff said the retail market would not get any easier in the next two or three years.
He said: “The banking environment needs to improve before we see very much improvement in the retail market and, also, when people are frightened of losing their jobs they are not spending any money.”
Last week, Leeds City Council gave the go-ahead to a £13m refurbishment of the Merrion Centre, owned by TCS. The proposals include new shops, restaurants, a gym, and a revamped multi-storey car park.
The project is expected to be completed in March 2013, in time for the opening of the Leeds Arena, a 13,500 capacity concert site which is being built nearby.
Mr Ziff said the move would add about eight shops to the centre, a third of which have been pre-let already.
He said another third of space would need to be pre-let before construction work started but he hoped work would start early next year.
Although he remained concerned about retailers going into administration, he said the Merrion Centre was working hard to attract customers during the festive season with Christmas promotions.
He added: “In terms of pedestrian visitors and where we see turnover figures, retailers seem to be holding up quite well here but you can’t get away from the over-riding environment, which is depressing.”
TCS is keeping its void rates low – close to three per cent. Mr Ziff said TCS worked with retailers who fell on hard times but said 95 per cent of tenants paid their rents on time.
Mr Ziff celebrated 30 years of service at the AGM, held at the company’s headquarters in Leeds. All the resolutions were passed at the meeting, which was attend by about 25 shareholders.