Friday 26 February 2021

Retailers and landlords on ‘collision course’ over deferred rent: FD

Willing to go to court Photo: G. Lanting via Wikimedia

A number of big Dutch retail chains, including Hunkemöller, Blokker and Wibra, have halved rental payments or suspended them altogether in a bid to relieve the financial stress caused by the coronavirus crisis, the Financieele Dagblad has found

The retailers, who the paper says are on a ‘collision course’ with their landlords, have said their situation is unsustainable, particularly now the cabinet has extended the ban on the sale of non-essential goods until February 9.

‘We will check in again when the shops can reopen. With your cooperation we would like to find a solution,’ Hunkemöller director Michael Hitchcock said in a letter to the owners of the 150 locations the lingerie chain rents. The chain is currently not paying any rent at all.

Retailers are not only deferring rental payments, but are also cancelling orders or suspending payments for them. One example is the HEMA which said it is making losses of €10m a week because of the lockdown, despite a rise in online sales.

Action, which has shops abroad which are open, is the only chain that has no need for such drastic measures, the FD said.

One-sided

The FD found that retailers and landlords are in a locked battle, with one anonymous landlord criticising the tough attitude of the retailers as a ‘lack of dialogue’, and pointing to the unilateral decision by some not to pay any rent at all.

Bas Duijsens, director of household articles and clothing chain Wibra, said it is the landlords who are ‘ice cold’ in the face of their tenants’ troubles. ‘We are struggling. The only thing we can do is pray that things will get better,’ Duijsens said.

Blokker owner Michiel Witteveen said that landlords are stuck as well, but that he wouldn’t rule out court action if they remain ‘intransigent’.

Landlords already granted retail chains a deferral of rental payments last year but many smaller owners are now feeling the pinch. ‘Some landlords only have one or two properties and have to live off the proceeds,’ Laurens van de Noort, director of private real estate investors association Vastgoed Belang, told the paper.

One thing retailers and landlords agree on is that the government must increase financial support to both parties, the FD said.

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