Commercial Property Blog
All posts tagged: Christmas
It is often said that timing is everything. This is certainly true in sport, politics, property and retailing. The evidence is there to see, particularly over the last few days.
At the weekend, some were describing Mitchell Johnson’s four hour-spell of bowling in Perth as one of the finest ever seen in an Ashes series. And, in the blink of an eye on Sunday evening, David Beckham lifted the Sports Personality Lifetime Achievement award.
Turning to politics, in one short interview, Vince Cable changes from hero to villain and a man with the capability to bring the party down.
The run up to Christmas is of course a critical period of time for retailers, and five hours of snowfall on Saturday morning has wreaked huge problems.
Brent Cross shopping centre was closed for a period of time, John Lewis estimate they lost £5m of sales and many high streets around the country have been inaccessible. You can go onto YouTube and see a clip of someone skiing down Princes Street in Edinburgh!
If a week in politics is considered a long time, then many retailers must be thinking the current week in the retail industry seems like a lifetime.
So let’s hope the Christmas spending keeps going and the retailers’ delivery trucks keep rolling. The retail industry deserves every second of time off it gets at Christmas.
I hope everyone has a great break, but one thing is certain and that is timing will continue to remain everything in the property industry in 2011.
Justin Taylor is Head of UK Retail at Cushman & Wakefield
I celebrated the second anniversary of my firm Mark Adams LLB in Fortnum and Mason’s wine bar 1707 with a prospective client and a glass of Pol Roger 2000.
Despite high expectations 2000 was not the best of years for Champagne; however, Pol Roger produced one of the best cuvees.
As I took in the powerful nose, reminiscent of freshly toasted brioche, my client broke my concentration with a question, which has become an annual tradition in itself: what to drink over the Christmas period?
I have broken with my usual advice this year and recommended that anyone interested in enjoying fine wine should try the lottery that is the ‘mixed case’. In addition to offering value for money, much needed in these troubled times, mixed cases are fun.
Waitrose Wines has paired wine and accessories, its Wine Tasting Case & Free Riedel Glasses (10 bottles – 2 glasses - £89.00) is particularly ingenious as it offers drinkers the opportunity to enjoy wine from a glass that has been scientifically designed to maximise the aroma, palate, structure and finish of the glass’ content.
The ‘free’ Riedel glasses may even make Jacob’s Creek Dry Riesling 2008/2009 worth drinking. A safer option in terms of selection is Waitrose’s Fine Wines & Wine Atlas selection (12 bottles - £199.00). The assembled wines include some heavyweight names such as Cune of Spain (Rioja, Gran Reserva 1998) and Trimbach of the Alsace (Riesling Reserve 2007) and the drinker can refer to the included copy of Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine for further information if sufficiently interested.
Mixed cases also afford the opportunity to sample wines that otherwise would not be a first choice.
Majestic Wine’s Buyer’s Festive Best (12 bottles - £187.89) is the best in class for this type of experience as it combines: Cava (Codorniu Reina Maria Cristina 2007); Champagne (Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV); the Alsace (Trimbach Riesling 2008); New Zealand (Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2009/2010 Marlborough), Napa Valley (Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2007); red and white Burgundy (Ladoix Rouge 2006/2007 and Pouilly-Fuissé 2008/2009);Left and Right Bank Bordeaux (Château Greysac 2006 Médoc and Château Bourgneuf 2006 Pomerol); Italy and Spain (Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2009 and Rioja Reserva 2006 Muga); and finally a sweet Sherry to drink with pudding (Matusalem 30-Year-Old Oloroso).
I have to admire the thought that Majestic has put into assembling this offering.
For those seeking a gamble over Christmas, Lay & Wheeler’s Mystery Case (12 bottles at £120.00) might be worth considering.
I confess, however, that I am not so brave; instead, I have opted for a tried and tested formula being Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Family Christmas 12 Bottle Pack (£124.00 including home delivery).
There will be no surprises this year and with the armoury of Berry’s reliable back up wines in place I should be able to open my magnum of Rothschild-owned Château D'Armailhac 1989 without worrying about what to drink should it be corked.
As I watched Dimitar Berbatov score Manchester United’s second goal on Saturday I found myself suddenly thinking about Champagne; perhaps, more because of the impending holiday season than because of United’s slightly improbable place at the top of the Premier League.
Later that evening, I decided to indulge in a bottle of Bollinger NV to celebrate the audio book deal that I had been offered earlier in the week for my novel Solano.
At £68.00, the Bollinger was far from a bargain; however, Champagne does not always have to be expensive.
Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Champagne, Grand Cru Société de Producteurs, Mailly and Blanc de Blanc, Grand Cru, Le Mesnil are bargains at £23.45 and £25.50 respectively.
If it is noted that the vineyards of Champagne are classified on village-by-village basis according to an échelle des crus system with only 17 villages or 8.6% of production classified as Grand Crus then it becomes apparent why these wines might be considered the connoisseur’s choice.
Indeed, they are better in many respects than the majority of the Grand Marque’s (leading Champagne houses) non-vintage offerings.
The happy minority would, however, include Pol Roger, Brut Réserve NV (£34.70): made with equal measures of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier the wine is full of intense fruit which builds in the mouth and like Berry’s own brands Pol Roger is also excellent value for money.
Value for money is, of course, a relative concept; however, Pol Roger’s other offerings also appear reasonably priced for the quality of the product.
Pol Roger Blanc de Blanc 1999 at £60.00, though not as good as the most famous Blanc de Blanc of all Salon, is reasonably priced when one remembers a bottle of Salon 1997 will set you back £195.00.
Even Pol Roger’s flagship special Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, at £110.00 for the 1999 vintage or £160.00 for the legendary 1996 vintage, is worth considering if there really is a cause for celebration this Christmas.
In addition, to being outstanding in the mouth Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill comes with its own potted history of Sir Winston’s love for Champagne and, more particularly, Pol Roger. Without spoiling the fun too much interesting facts include:
- the black foil used by Pol Roger was first employed in 1965 to mourn Churchill’s death;
- the blend of the wine is secret at the behest of the Soames family; and
- Churchill is believed to have drunk a bottle a day.
Lady Soames said at the launch of Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill in 1984 of her late father’s love for Champagne ‘I saw him many times the better for it, but never the worse.’ I am not sure whether I will be able to say the same of myself on the morning of 26 December but I am sure Sir Winston would have approved in any event.
My desk is nearly clear, I’m nearly done and the sustainable office Christmas tree has been on all night again. Soon I’ll be gone. But don’t get too excited, I don’t have a terminal disease and no one’s uncovered my insider dealing or illegal human trafficking either.
I’m just about to take a well deserved month away from property. But I can’t help having a quick reflection first and look ahead to next year while I pick another few receipts from under my keyboard and find long-lost shoe polish under some newspapers.
The year’s certainly flown by. And despite the Winter of Discontent that this hopeless government seems keen to plague us with, there’s real positivity in the air.
You know things are on the up when Francis Salway, that most carefully considered of property legends, has a smile on his face and a spring in his step. It may have been all the cinnamon candles at Land Securities’ Christmas shindig, but his points about how the industry should be proud of crossing the landlord-tenant divide and doing some reputation reparation was fully justified.
Through 2009, retail was the new housing. From the minute Phil Green kicked off the mumfly rents in summer 2008 all in the name of ‘small business’ (the irony of him berating journalists from the confines of his Monaco-based yacht being wholly lost on many), the industry needed to pull its finger out. It took a while, but it did, thankfully.
And what’s been most interesting hasn’t been the various saga-like meetings around service charges, rents, insurance premiums and the like (leave that to the lawyers), but more the very clear step-change in the property industry’s approach to things. Where once upon a time many of the big firms wouldn’t say a word for fear of getting pilloried in the press, many of our most favoured company leaders have been all too happy to speak up.
Some of the chip-shouldered minority may have missed that, but what’s been clear is that the raft of initiatives introduced over the last year have gone a long way to changing the historic view of property. You know: the one where it screws over everyone and then steals the Christmas tree.
And as we head into an election and look towards a new administration, it’s vital the industry continues to be seen as responsible. Not just for the sake of saving face but for the sake of insuring it doesn’t get shafted with legislation it doesn’t like designed to protect occupiers needlessly. While insolvencies will no doubt snow ball as the fallout from Christmas sales begins to digest, as we’ve seen, there’s little the industry will be able to do. Recessions weed out poor performers. If the recession were a TV programme, it would be X-Factor: a colossal boil of an experience that people try hopelessly to avoid but somehow end up getting caught up in regardless.
But responsibility extends to more than just monthly rents or service charge transparency. Indeed, these are things that should be there as standard practice. While the Copenhagen conference is all about whether Obama can be made to do anything, the property industry will have to prove itself domestically if it’s to escape the likely ravage of green taxes that will come in at some point.
My favourite Obama quip of the week compares him to Bush. George W may have talked rubbish for the most part, but at least people listened to him. Obama speaks sense but no one blinks an eyelid (Korea, Iran, etc).
CBRE’s Charlotte Eddington – who won the Women in the City property award – was on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning speaking sense. “The government’s been ignoring existing buildings and wrongly focusing on the 2 per cent of new buildings,” she said. Too right. Only in the UK could you have 92 different bodies and departments dealing with environmental issues and not one dealing with the source of half of the UK’s emissions. Maybe the Tories will start giving out free wind turbines with the Mail on Sunday when they get in?
If they don’t, then the industry is going to have to get its innovation cap on, because this political ignorance won’t last forever. And 2010 is likely to be the first year it comes under the spotlight as the carbon reduction commitment – the cab and trade scheme for big energy users – comes in.
Next year is also likely to see the community infrastructure levy (CIL) stagger in, although to what extent it will get implemented remains to be seen. Suddenly the ‘woefully inadequate’ section 106 system doesn’t look so bad, does it lads? (It’s amazing how, when it suits, the property industry can be more fickle than a harem of teenage goth girls.)
One tiny glimmer of hope– found when trawling through the Chancellor’s press statements – was the talk of councils being able to possibly borrow against future CIL raising. This could prove an interesting complement to other methods, such as tax increment financing. Concerns over the borrowing implications these bring with them will need to be allayed, however, especially with the Tories.
The New Year does beckon some positivity though, even if it must be guarded in an acceptance that rents will continue to take a battering in secondary areas and that banks are going to have start selling stuff to reclaim debts. For starters, Gordon Brown will be gone this time next year. For seconds, Ed Balls and Mandelson will doubtlessly be gone too. That’s three reasons.
The fourth and biggest will be that all the good things worked up during 2009 will bear fruit. The industry’s responsibility and flexibility will stand it in a better light with its customers and wider stakeholders. The ice will begin to thaw a little more on those historic reputational barriers we’re fighting against. And who knows: there may even be some property agents at MIPIM, unless the organisers sue everyone for running parties outside the controlled area, that is.
At least all those who wanted Santa to leave them a positive IPD figure in their socks will be content. Of course, I’m far too old to believe in Christmas.
Happy New Year.