A SHOPPING centre operator has dubbed itself the “first port of call” for expanding retailers after enjoying a strong trading period.

Intu Properties says operators see its malls as safe havens for growth during the difficult economic period.

Bosses also praised Intu’s international reach, revealing Polish cosmetics retailer Inglot chose its Newcastle Eldon Square precinct to open its first stand-alone store outside London.

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David Fischel, chief executive, who revealed the business agreed 63 long-term UK leases in the period between July 1 and yesterday, said it stands well placed to grow.

He added: “We have recorded another active quarter with strong tenant demand and continue to attract wellknown international and national brands.

“Although retailers continue to be selective with their expansion plans in the challenging consumer environment, our prime centres are the first port of call because of their strong catchment, reliable footfall and leisure content.

“This leaves us well positioned to take advantage of this demand and we are confident of delivering further growth in like-for-like net rental income in 2018 and at a level of two to three per cent over the medium-term.”

Intu, whose estate also includes the MetroCentre, previously revealed £262m company-wide renovation plans, with bosses pledging to spend around £26m on the Gateshead site to deliver general refurbishment and unit re-sizing work.

It has already invested in new restaurants and agreed a deal with Next to increase its presence at the mall.