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Dentons closes second supermarket portfolio sale

Dentons has closed its second supermarket portfolio sale for the John Lewis Partnership in the space of a week. The freehold of six Waitrose supermarkets have been acquired by real estate investment trust Supermarket Income REIT for £74.1m. The stores, which will continue to trade as normal, will be leased back to Waitrose for 20 years (with a tenant break at year 15).

Located in Eastbourne, Edenbridge, Ely, Oundle, Sandbach and Sudbury, the stores have an average gross internal area of 32,000 sq ft.

Last week Dentons advised the John Lewis Partnership on the sale and leaseback of five Waitrose Limited stores to property investor LondonMetric for £62 million.

Deepa Deb, head of Dentons’ UK Real Estate practice commented, “This is the second portfolio sale of supermarkets we have closed for longstanding client the John Lewis Partnership in the space of a week. All of these Waitrose stores have a solid trading record and it evidences that the investment market in supermarkets remains strong in the current climate.”

Deepa Deb was assisted by associates Amy Smith, Alexis Condie, Rachel Dunn and Calum McKenzie.

Over the past year, Dentons’ UK Real Estate team has advised on several high profile transactions such as Doosan Babcock’s continued occupation of its site in Renfrew (billed as Scotland’s largest industrial property deal in 2019), Sports Direct’s sale and leaseback of its Derbyshire distribution centre, and the sale of the Hampton by Hilton at Bristol Airport to Ability Group.

Dentons has launched several tools for businesses over the past few months to help with real estate issues related to COVID-19 across England, Wales and Scotland, including the COVID-19 Interactive Agreement Tool Kit and COVID-19 Interactive Lease Tool Kit. See all insights and resources on Dentons’ global COVID-19 hub.

Deloitte comments on ONS retail sales

In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity.

Commenting on today’s ONS retail sales figures, Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said: “Retail sales continued to struggle in May, despite both values and volumes rising by 11.8% and 12% compared to April. In a month that saw two bank holiday weekends, some easing of outdoor social gatherings, and warmer weather for many, retailers may have been looking for the first green shoots of recovery to make up for lost ground in March and April.

“Overall food sales values were flat, at +0.3% month-on-month, but, whilst grocers may have hoped for stronger food sales in what is traditionally the start of barbecue season, online grocery sales remain strong, up by 21.1% compared to April and now accounting for 11.3% of all food sales. More encouragingly, non-food sales are up month-on-month in both value (+24.2%) and volume (+23.7%) for the first time since lockdown, which, for some, will mark the early signs of ‘normality’ for this time of year. However, 41.5% of non-food sales occurred online in May, up from 15.8% in February 2020 before lockdown.

“A wider disparity between online and in-store sales remains this month in spite of garden centre and hardware store re-openings. Total online sales stood at 33.4% this month, beating April’s record sales, though this is unlikely to have offset sales usually seen in-store over this period. In addition to household goods, purchases have also likely been driven by beauty products and, more notably, clothing items as many consumers continue to work from home, with an increased requirement for video conferencing and a more relaxed ‘work’ wardrobe.

“Looking ahead, as non-essential retailers begin to phase-in store reopening plans, some consumer anxiety will remain. During lockdown, consumers have pivoted to fewer but bigger food shops. Whether this trend will also translate into non-food remains to be seen. For retailers, there are two options: a difficult balancing act to between re-creating a familiar shopping experience whilst implementing and maintaining strict new hygiene practices, or innovating and re-inventing the shopping experience for a post-COVID-19 world. Deloitte data shows that 46% of UK consumers currently feel safe visiting a store, but building on this confidence will be key for drawing more shoppers back to the High Street over the coming months.”

Retail body appoints legal advisory team

Leading Dublin firm Sherwin O’Riordan has announced a new partnership with Retail Excellence Ireland. Sherwin O’Riordan will provide a legal advisory service to Retail Excellence Ireland’s 2000 members.

The service will take the form of a full employment, commercial and property consultation service to members and offer advice on legal queries by phone or email.

Business law

Established in 2002, Sherwin O’Riordan is a firm of highly-experienced solicitors specialising in advising growing SMEs in Ireland on commercial and business law, employment, commercial litigation, dispute resolution and commercial property.

Co-founding partner David O’Riordan said “We are delighted to have joined forces with Retail Excellence Ireland.

“This is what we specialise in and the service we’re providing will help the members of REI deal with their legal queries quickly and efficiently.”

Retail Excellence is a not for profit company which supports Irish retailers to be the best they can be.

Retail Excellence involves 2,000 leading retail companies who operate in the Irish market. Our members are the most progressive and innovative in the market. We make every effort to deliver activity which is wholeheartedly based on member needs. Retail Excellence is by far the largest retail industry body in Ireland.

Established in 1995, Retail Excellence is owned by the Members, for the Members and is the largest retail industry trade body in Ireland. Our aim is to enhance the consumer’s retail experience by developing top class retail standards and skills and promote a vibrant and competitive world class retail industry in Ireland.

If you would like to find out more information, please visit: https://www.retailexcellence.ie/

2 FTSE 100 stocks to buy that I’d consider right now

I reckon it’s a good idea to invest in a few good quality FTSE 100 shares. I think these two pay decent dividend yields and have reasonable prospects for growing their dividends a little each year from where we are today.

Meanwhile, each firm has an undemanding valuation, which bodes well for future expansion of their share prices.

Retailing

FTSE 100 clothing, footwear, accessories and home products retailer Next (LSE: NXT) looks set to become a survivor in what has become a difficult sector. I think that’s because of the success of its catalogue and online sales strategy working in harmony with the store estate.

The second-quarter trading update released at the end of July revealed to us that sales and profits edged up by modest single-digit percentages in the period. I think that’s a far better trading outcome than many struggling retailers have been experiencing lately.

The good trading was better than the directors had previously anticipated and they increased full-price sales guidance for the second half of the year to an anticipated increase of 3% rather than 1.7% as stated earlier. Things are moving in the right direction and I think the stock is attractive.

At the recent share price close to 6,007p, the forward-looking earnings multiple runs just below 13 for the trading year to January 2021 and the anticipated dividend yield is around 2.9%. City analysts following the firm are pencilling in modest increases in the dividend ahead. I think Next looks like a stalwart that I’d be happy to add to my portfolio.

Paper & Packaging

Despite delivering decent-looking half-year financial numbers with its interim report at the beginning of August, paper and packaging firm Mondi (LSE: MNDI) saw its share price fall back on the news.

I think the move happened because the stock market is always looking ahead and trying to anticipate trading down the line. The figures were good, yes, but chief executive Peter Oswald said in the report they were achieved “against a backdrop of increasingly challenging trading conditions.” That, I reckon, was enough to spook the market.

But Oswald went on to say the firm’s “relentless” focus on continuous improvement is set to lessen the impact of trading pressures in the firm’s markets. I reckon the firm’s multi-year record of steady growth in revenue, earnings, cash flow and the dividend bodes well for future progress, despite any macro-economic wobbles we might see from time to time.

I like the stock and see the current weakness in the share price as an opportunity to hop aboard the story on better terms. The recent share price close to 1,595p throws up a forward-looking earnings multiple of just over nine for 2020 and the anticipated dividend yield is a little under 5%. I think that looks like decent value.