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Tuesday May 11, 2021

Sandton City achieves highest monthly March turnover in five years – update

Sandton City achieved its highest turnover ever in March 2021, compared to the preceding five years' months of March, its owner Liberty Two Degrees said in an operational update on Friday.

Turnover at the iconic Johannesburg mall was up by 41 percent in March 2021 compared to the preceding year, and 2.6 percent higher than March 2019. However, taking into account the level 1 Covid"19 restrictions that were tightened from December 29 to March 1, and the lockdowns of 2020, annual comparisons were difficult to make.

Nevertheless, the 2021 first quarter was only down 2.1 percent on 2020 and down 3.5 percent on 2019, the group said. The market responded positively to the operational update, with the share price up 3 percent to R4.69 on Friday morning, while the SA Listed Property Index was up only 0.79 percent. The share closed the day at R4.66, up 2.42 percent.

Liberty, which also owns Eastgate, Nelson Mandela Square, Melrose Arch and Midlands Mall, said its retail property portfolio had demonstrated a strong recovery in March, growing by 27.1 percent, while turnover in the first quarter was down by 3.9 percent compared to 9.3 percent in the final quarter of 2020.

All of its malls recorded positive turnover growth in March 2021 when compared to the corresponding month in the prior year.

During 2020, March was impacted by the hard lockdown commencing during the last few days of the month.

“We remain focused on ‘The new ABC of rebuilding for growth' strategy and specifically on responding with agility, taking a back"to"basics approach … and creating new communities of merged environments to complement our precinct"focused strategy,” the group said.

Luxury brands, a unique differentiator of the portfolio, continued to play a significant role, contributing 8 percent towards total turnover, but only accounting for 1 percent of portfolio gross lettable area, with year"on"year growth at 109 percent.

Other strong performing categories across the portfolio include homeware and furniture, technology and apparel.

The January 2021 monthly portfolio foot count was 72.1 percent compared to January 2020 due to the lockdown restrictions implemented at the end of December 2020.

The easing of lockdown restrictions in February 2021 enabled the portfolio foot count to recover to 81.6 percent of the prior year comparative month on a like"for"like basis.

The portfolio foot count for March 2021 improved to 99.4 percent of the comparative 2020 level which was, however, impacted by the initiation of the level 5 lockdown at the end of March 2020. The retail portfolio occupancy at 95 percent remained ahead of the South African Property Owners Association fourth quarter 2020 occupancy rate of 93.9 percent.

The work from home trend continued to negatively impact the office sector with the March 2021 occupancy rate at 86.7 percent, largely due to further office vacancies at Melrose Arch.

The Mercury 10 May 2021 EDWARD WEST


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