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Retailers Start Including Pandemic Clauses In New Leases


One of the UK’s biggest retail groups is inserting clauses in new leases that could allow it to halt paying rent if there are future spikes in coronavirus cases.

According to Retail Week, Edinburgh Woollen Mill is putting “pandemic clauses” into new leases it is signing on stores for its Bonmarché discount fashion brand, which it bought out of administration in June.

Under the terms of the clauses, Bonmarché can sign new leases now but not pay any rent until the stores actually open.

More significantly for landlords, the clause means that if the pandemic recurs in future and stores have to shut again, rents are paused and potentially refunded by property owners. 

“Where we are currently signing new leases for Bonmarché stores, we have agreed with landlords a new pandemic clause,” a Bonmarché spokesperson said.

Retail tenants and landlords across the country are locked in negotiations over rent holidays or deferrals, which many tenants need to avoid going bust after stores have been forced to shut, destroying revenue virtually overnight. 

Just 47% of quarterly retail rent was paid in March, according to data from Remit Consulting. Shopping centre giant Intu said it received just 29% of the rent it was owed on the March quarter day, compared to more than 70% at the same point of 2019.