Property giant Land Securities has sealed a £656 million deal to buy a stake in shopping centre Bluewater.
The Walkie-Talkie tower developer is shunning regional shopping centres in favour of premium destinations like the Kent shopping centre, which attracts 27 million visitors a year and hosts 330 retailers. The deal values the centre at £2.2 billion.
The acquisition comes just a day after Land Securities revealed it has sold The Bridges mall in Sunderland for £152 million in the latest of a string of sell-offs.
The developer said the move came in a changing retail environment, where visitors head to shopping centres less frequently but stay for longer, combining a meal or cinema visit with retail therapy.
Last year it opened the £350 million Trinity Leeds centre and is also poised to redevelop Oxford’s Westgate centre. Chief executive Robert Noel said: “As we shop less regularly for longer, people want to go where the best retailers are and the best retailers now want fewer, bigger stores.”
Noel said that customers stay in Bluewater for at least two hours on average, as opposed to 30 minutes in The Bridges. Bluewater is seen as the first stop for international retailers expanding outside London in the UK and US fashion giant American Eagle Outfitter has plans to open there.
Other stakeholders in Bluewater include Prudential and BT pension fund Hermes. Liberum analyst Michael Burt said: “The acquisition is not surprising given Land Securities’ desire to increase its retail exposure to the London and the South-East.”