SUNDERLAND’S the Bridges shopping centre has helped parent company Land Securities record a healthy start to the financial year despite the gloomy national picture.
The property firm saw half-year revenue profit jump from £135.9milliion to £159.3million, a rise of 17.2 per cent on the six months to the end of September 2010.
The Bridges manager Jonathan Buckle said: “We’ve had a phenomenal year at the Bridges and have welcomed 16million shoppers to date, an increase of 540,000 year on year.
“The start of construction work on our new £15million, three-storey expansion to deliver a new 60,000 sq ft Primark store is well under way and in no time at all we’ll be the proud owners of an even bigger and greater shopping centre.
“Earlier this year, we secured detailed planning permission for the redevelopment of our Market Square Mall Cafés.
“Work is now on site and as part of the redevelopment Café Nero will open a 1,500sq ft food and drink outlet in the city for the first time later this year.
“A number of our retailers have success stories of their own to celebrate. Disney has just opened its doors in a new, much larger store on Central Square which features its latest interactive store format.
“Topshop and Topman have confirmed they will be upsizing next year plus Goldsmiths, Vision Express and La Senza have each reaffirmed their commitment to the Bridges by signing new 10-year leases.
“Deploying a robust asset management strategy and continuing to attract the right retailers to the centre, means we approach 2012 in the strongest position.”
Land Securities’ chief executive Francis Salway said: “Our continuing progress in the period reflects our focus on operations at every level.
“We have reduced vacancy rates, secured lettings above estimated rental value and achieved sales above the March 2011 valuation.
“Revenue profit has increased and our balance sheet is stronger, with lower gearing and capacity to invest in acquisition opportunities as and when they arise.
“We are operating in a challenging environment and we expect pressures in managing occupancy rates to continue.
“However, we have been encouraged by our first-half performance. Our strong balance sheet and excellent customer relationships give us confidence in our ability to respond to market conditions.”