Property giant Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) has hailed an “encouraging footfall recovery” at its malls since they reopened following lockdown. 

The shopping centre owner said customer numbers have returned to 80-90% of last year’s levels in European regions including France and Spain, where the majority of its sites are located. 

In the UK, where the group operates the Westfield London and Westfield Stratford malls, URW said footfall was approaching 50% of 2019 levels. 

Revenues raked in by retailers in URW’s centres were impacted “less than footfall”, the group said, as a result of improved conversion rates and higher average transaction values. 

However, URW suffered a 15% slump in net rental income to €1bn (£906m) during the period as it was hit by ongoing negotiations with retailers. 

The group collected 67% of all rent it was owed during the first six months of 2020. After a strong start to the year, it collected just 38% of rents in its second quarter. 

Of that second-quarter total, URW said 3% has been forgiven through rent relief, 20% has been deferred and 39% is overdue and to be recovered. 

The UK was URW’s worst affected market – net rental income tumbled 36% to €50m (£45m) as a number of retailers took a hardline stance on their rent payments. 

URW chief executive Christophe Cuvillier described the first half of the year as “an unprecedented time” in which its centres were closed for an average of 67 days. 

But he said footfall and sales “have been recovering better than anticipated” since reopening. 

Cuvillier said: “This shows our centres continue to be attractive destinations for people to visit and will see further increases in activity as life returns to normal.”