Retailer sales and footfall at Intu’s shopping centres – which include Lakeside in Essex and Manchester’s Trafford Centre – rose last year.

Footfall edged up 0.3% and retailer sales rose 2%.

Chief executive of the property firm David Fischel said: “As economic recovery spreads out from London and the Southeast to other regions, consumer confidence is positive, driving improved retail demand for space in our centres at a time when new supply of quality retail space is very limited.”

Intu also reported that retail occupancy across its shopping centres had increased to 96% in 2015, up from 95% in the previous year.

Intu’s figures follow the latest results from BRC and Springboard, which reported that town centre vacancy rates were at 8.7% in January, the lowest since they started recording this measure in July 2011.

Future investment

Intu is ploughing £600m of investment into its shopping centres over the next three years.

The shopping centre developer is diversifying the portfolio of its estate. A £178m leisure and retail extension is under way at its Watford site and construction on a leisure extension at Intu Lakeside is due to start this year. 

Redevelopment of its Broadmarsh shopping centre will also start this year. 

As well as increasing its leisure offer, Intu is broadening its retail portfolio.

The Danish lifestyle and homewares retailer Søstrene Grene will open its first UK store in Intu’s Victoria Centre in Nottingham next month.

On average, UK shopping centres have had a less positive performance than Intu’s estate – the BRC and Springboard footfall tracker reported shopper numbers were down 2% in the last quarter of the year.

However, shopping centres had their best performance since January 2014 last month, coming in flat year-on-year and up 1.6% on the previous month.

Overall, retail traffic delivered its best results in two years last month, buoyed by increases in shopper numbers across shopping centre, retail parks and the high street.

Like-for-like rental income in the year to December 31 rose 1.8% as demand for space in its sites increased.