Premier Investments calls for retail landlord support to weather the crisis

The head of Premier Investments' (ASX: PMV) retail group has emphasised the key part retail building landowners will play in helping stores survive the economic impacts of the global health crisis.

Premier Retail manages well known brands including Smiggle, Portmans, Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Jay Jays, Jaqui E and dotti.

"Landlords have a major role to play to ensure retailers can operate in the short term for the long-term benefit of all stakeholders," says Premier Retail CEO Mark McInnes.

"Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have closed two stores in Hong Kong and we are prepared to close many more stores globally if landlords do not respond to the current crisis."

French shopping centre conglomerate Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX: URW), which purchased Westfield Corporation in 2017, provided a snapshot of the European retail situation yesterday.

"At this date, local authorities have required all non-essential stores to close in France, Spain, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia," URW said.

"As such, the Group's shopping centres in these markets are substantially closed (supermarkets, food stores, and pharmacies are typically allowed to open). Some limitations to trading hours also apply in Denmark.

"The Group's other shopping centres continue to trade as normal for now, albeit with reduced footfall, although URW expects other governments may adopt similar measures in due course."

URW said it was still too early to determine the impact on the contractual obligations of the group's retailers and other partners, "or to estimate the effect of any case-by-case support measures the Group may decide on".

"The Group has started an active dialogue with its tenants on how to address these unprecedented challenges. In addition, URW is actively reducing non-staff expenses, deferring non-essential capital expenditure and will make use of any relevant facilities or arrangements provided by the various national authorities to assist companies through the crisis.

"However, considering the uncertainty around this rapidly evolving situation and how long the above preventative measures will need to remain in place, it is not currently possible to estimate the extent of the impact on the Group's earnings."

Updated at 1:37pm AEDT on 17 March 2020.

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