Institutional landlord Intu has launched a ‘direct retailing’ trial at its Broadmash site as part of its new strategy to revamp its flagging shopping centre portfolio.

Intu is opening the Birdhouse Cafe on its Broadmarsh shopping centre in Nottingham, which it said will “breathe new life into the high street and give a fresh boost to independent retailers”.

The cafe will work with locally based suppliers and will also provide retail and events space to other local “small and start-up brands”.

A spokesman for the landlord said the direct retailing concept was “essentially Intu selling directly to customers” and that the cafe will be run “as a standalone, rent-paying tenant on the site led by a retail specialist”.

Commercial director at Intu, Trevor Pereira, said the concept was part of the landlord’s new, long-term strategy aimed at better incorporating local, high street businesses into shopping centre schemes.

“We wanted to test whether a landlord can make this kind of move into direct retailing and explore the benefits it would provide our visitors, existing brands and the wider community.

“It was important to us that the new business we created would operate as a standalone venture with its own team who would have to face the same challenges as any other retailer so that we could really test the concept,” he said.

“Our ambition is to grow this concept at other Intu destinations across the UK as part of our new strategy to transform our centres and nurture the best brands. We think this has the potential to show how small and independent businesses can thrive alongside international names to create the best possible retail and leisure experience.”

Intu launched its new “transformational five-year strategy” at the end of July in a bid to arrest tumbling rental income and asset values.

In the six months to June 30, Intu’s net rental income slumped 17.9% to £205.2m, while on a like-for-like basis, rents fell 7.7%.

New boss Matthew Roberts put much of the blame for this on “a higher level of administrations and CVAs” in the retail and food and beverage sectors, and “political uncertainty in the UK and weak consumer confidence”.

Another plank of the new strategy is investing in its centres, and Intu is in the process of renewing planning consent to redevelop part of one of its flagship centres at Lakeside in Essex.