The site is currently 43 per cent open with retailers such as Morrisons, Boots, Superdrug, Wilko, Iceland, Home Bargains, Heron Foods, Holland & Barrett, Sing-Kee Oriental Supermarket and a number of food and beverage operators already open to shoppers.
From mid-June all the other retailers, including Peacocks, Ryman, Leeds United, Game UK, Select, Jumbo Records, The Works, Hutchison 3G, Shoe Zone, Hays Travel and private traders, will reopen. Offices at Merrion will also reopen.
Town Centre’s chairman and chief executive, Edward Ziff, said Merrion will put in place safeguards to ensure customers can observe safe social distancing rules with the left hand side designated for walking North and the right hand side for walking South.”
Morrisons has opened both of its entrances to help with social distancing, one in the main mall and one from the car park.
Mr Ziff said: “There won’t be mingling. The middle bit, where we’ve got some kiosks and we’re reorganising those, will be used as holding pens to keep people two meters apart to access the shops on either side.
“It’s worked very well with Morrisons over the past few days, in terms of accessing its store.”
He said there has been an increase in the centre’s pedestrian flow, which was down by 90 per cent after lockdown was introduced. Over the last few days pedestrian flow has picked up to 75 per cent of the normal rate.
“We will have ambassadors to help people move around the centre and there will be sufficient hand sanitisers,” said Mr Ziff.
“We’ve been in touch with all the retailers and we are working with them as best we can. We want them to open their shops for trade and try to get back to as normal as we can, as quickly as possible.”
Free parking will be phased out as the firm anticipates that demand for parking will pick up quickly as people continue to avoid public transport.
Mr Ziff said: “We want the car parks to be available for shoppers, which is what our tenants expect.
“The signs are that retail in places like Germany and Austria has come back quite strongly and we’re hoping it will be the same here.”
https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7u9va3 As previously disclosed, the group said its CitiPark car parking business has been hardest hit with a material reduction in income.
Despite detailed cost cutting measures including the temporary closure of seven branches, Town Centre said the impact will result in a significant reduction in profitability.
The firm is to go ahead with its interim dividend payout despite the coronavirus outbreak hitting its car parking business hard.
Town Centre will pay out previously announced 3.25p per share interim dividend at a total cost of £1.7m, payable on June 26 to shareholders registered on May 29.
The group said cumulative rent payments have fallen since the outbreak of Covid-19. Out of the £6.6m rent and service charge billed, the firm has collected £5m, or 75 per cent. It has agreed to defer a further £700,000, or 11 per cent of payments, totalling £5.7m or 86 per cent of the amounts due.
Of the £900,000 remaining, the firm has agreed certain concessions over £300,000 of the outstanding amount, in return for an improvement in the terms or length of the lease.
Mr Ziff said: “I am pleased with the progress made in rent collections during this period of disruption, although we have experienced a wide range of responses from tenants.
“These continue to be unprecedented times and we are working tirelessly to support all of our stakeholders whilst remaining in close dialogue with tenants.”
Over a third of its retail and leisure portfolio, which makes up just less than half of its asset base, is currently open and trading.