It’s been mentioned before, but if proof was ever needed that supermarkets are as much property companies as they are retailers, then we only have to look at Tesco’s ridiculously huge losses.
In the hope that it could get all its bad news out at once, Tesco posted a whopping £6.4bn loss for the year to the end of Februay, more than even the most pessimistic of observers had predicted. The theory is it can only get better from here.
But unless Tesco does something dramatic with its property portfolio things may not get that much better. An enormous property writedown accounted for £4.7bn of the losses, and as a result the supermarket’s recently announced closure of 43 stores may well not be enough.
What is most striking is how sensitive retailers are to footfall. While sales drop, there has never been a more stark example of how a drop in revenue pales into insignificance compared to what a drop in customers does for property values.
For me, Dave Lewis, the embattled Tesco boss picking up the pieces of Terry Leahy’s vast over expansion, is going to be crawling over his list of 3,000 stores and looking where he can claw back some cash. We could also see more resi development, more land sales and, possibly, more sale and leaseback deals up and down the country.
If property can have such a big and instant impact on losses, it can also play a role in winning quick gains to turn the figures around.
Watch this space.