West Bromwich shopping centre boosted by college footfall

THE opening of a Sandwell College campus next to West Bromwich’s Kings Square shopping centre is having a beneficial on the mall, its owner has said.

London & Associated Properties said the increasing footfall through the centre was having a welcome impact on retailers in the centre.

“We continue to achieve successful lease renewals at Kings Square and the centre is effectively fully let,” said LAP in its interims statement.

“The opening of Sandwell College to the rear of our centre is driving higher levels of footfall through it and our tenants are benefiting from this.”

The news will be a welcome boost to a town which has suffered more than most from the development of out-of-town shopping centres.

With the opening of the Merry Hill Centre just a few miles away trade in the town centre was decimated, leading to closure of many big name stores. It has recently lost its WH Smiths outlet, while the Post Office shut earlier this year.

However, there have been recent signs of encouragement. Sandwell Borough Council has recently been successful in securing £100,000 from the Government’s High Street Renewal Fund and will be using the funding to improve the appearance of the six towns in the borough.

The award was made after West Bromwich and Bearwood both missed out on £100,000 bids under the scheme being championed by shopping guru Mary Portas.

In its interim statement, LAP said it had continued to make progress despite the challenging economic environment. Like-for-like income was broadly unchanged at £7.7m but the company said the strength of its portfolio was reflected by voids of only 2% in rental income, while it had completed lease renewals and new leases worth £833,000.

In a joint statement, Michael Heller, chairman, and John Heller, chief executive, said: “We are pleased with our continued operational progress against the background of a challenging economic climate. The strength of our £210m property portfolio is reflected in the extremely low level of voids and continued new lettings.

“While conditions remain difficult we believe the company is in good
health and we are well positioned to take full advantage of the upturn when it comes.”

LAP’s income for the first six months of the year was £7.7m (2011: £8.1m). It said the slightly reduced gross income arose primarily because of a temporary reduction in rental income of £400,000 at its centre in Windsor while the former Boots store was being redeveloped, together with a temporary reduction in revenue from Brixton Market.