Watch: Leisure sector is “on the crest of a wave”

2nd October 2023 | Jack Oliver

The leisure industry is currently on “the crest of a wave”, said Neil Hockin, managing director of Lunson Mitchenall.

Speaking at September’s Completely Retail Marketplace event, he said that at the moment leisure feels “quite resilient”, but the proof is yet to be seen that these companies can survive when rent-free periods end:

“So I think there’s sometime to go in that sector. And there will be a consolidation because there’s been a massive explosion and one, invariably, follows the other.”

He was joined by Alice Keown, leasing director for hospitality and leisure at British Land, to discuss the rise of experiential retail and the incorporation of leisure activities in shopping spaces with Completely Retail News executive editor Lisa Pilkington.

“There are sectors that seem to be more resilient, so QSR (quick-service restaurants) always does well in a recession or a downturn”, said Keown.

She added: “All of the usual QSR’s like Maccie D’s (McDonald’s) and Burger King will be here to stay, but I’m loving the new generation coming through. We heard that Popeyes think they’ll get a tenfold growth over the next ten years, and given the sales they’re doing in [British Land’s] assets I believe that’s possible.”

Hockin also said that there are some “interesting new players” in the sector, citing operators who follow up on the success of game shows and TV shows, such as the Peaky Blinders experience.

He added: “From an occupational perspective, [the leisure scene] is better than it was. There’s been a rebalancing of rents and repositioning.

“So transactionally, we’re kind of on fire at the moment, things are going really well for us. I think every [retail and leisure] deal is different, the days of being an agent and doing 15 deals with JD Sports that are all kind of the same are behind us. We have to keep reinventing the wheel for that, […] it makes it challenging.

“We’re definitely seeing a move to alternative uses as well, not all of it is that deliverable or that viable, but as rents have come down – and this rebalancing has really helped – we’re seeing lots of our landlord clients being far more proactive in terms of looking at alternative uses and what customers really want.”

Keown added that all sorts of new leisure operators are coming to centres, alongside traditional retail:

“We really see that [leisure] promotes engagement with the end user, the customer”, she said.

“A great example is at Speke where about a third of our space is leisure and we are seeing people come eight times more frequently during the year than they did before we put the leisure in.”

“They are spending about 37% more on retail, and they spend 64% more overall than a non-leisure user in a year. So it really does promote frequency, dwell, and spend.”

Watch the full ‘Leisure Destination Development’ session above.


Looking for more retail news? you might find these interesting