Commercial Property Blog
All posts from: February 2011
The business of pawnbroking has been going on since the Thirteenth Century, but the current economic climate means the trade is finally throwing off its seedy image, and expanding like there’s no tomorrow.
One of the few groups of high street retailers to have significant national expansion plans, two things are driving this trend. Number one, the rocketing gold price. And two, the reluctance of high street banks to give credit to their more lowly customers.
Last week, quoted pawnbroker Albemarle & Bond reported it is on track to open 25 new stores this year, declaring a 14 per cent rise in gross profits at its half year results. It also has 38 “pop up” shops in shopping malls, and is looking to take more of those too.
Interestingly, the areas it wants to increase its representation are those areas poised to bear the brunt of next month’s public sector cuts, and locations including Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham are on its hit list. Harvey & Thompson, another national pawnbroking chain, has similar expansion plans.
A&B’s chief executive Barry Stevenson told me that demand for short-term cash in the UK “is probably at an all-time high.” His business has seen a 32% increase in its pawn pledge book, driven by rising numbers of new customers who have never stepped foot in a pawnbrokers before now.
Whether its Middle Englanders cashing in their old gold, or redundant workers trying to make their benefits go further, as the economy contracts, more people are becoming aware of how pawnbroking works, and are less stigmatised by the idea.
In effect, pawn shops are becoming the new banks. A&B believes the credit restrictions high street banks are putting on their customers is driving them to look towards alternative sources of credit and cash. As well as pawning or selling jewellery, most pawn shops also offer cheque cashing and temporary Payday loans, often at very high interest rates.
Shopping centre landlords have been nervous about “lowering the tone” by allowing the pawnbrokers inside their doors, but research A&B has carried out shows that most of the cash exchanged is spent in the same centre that day.
Pawning necklaces to finance shopping trips is an interesting new social trend – but remember, according to the official statistics, we’re not in recession yet.
Every commuter using the tube will know that each journey is fraught with people behaving in the most unusual and, at times, frustrating ways.
So, with the Olympics coming to town next year I’ve put together some tube etiquette rules that, if obeyed, will ensure everyone has a more pleasant journey to work.
Let’s start with some of the ‘Unacceptables’ – rules that I believe should never be broken on the London Underground:
- Don’t get on the tube before others have got off. If you do attempt this, expect a push/shoulder barge/elbow (delete as appropriate) for your troubles. If everyone obeyed this simple mantra, I would be one happy woman.
- Don’t eat on a tube: that’s disgusting – have you no shame? Multiple reasons why not – germs, irritating, messy, smelly… just plain yuck. Even after a night out this is unacceptable. One of my friends ate some greasy fried chicken on the tube on her way home from a night out complete with lip smacking, finger licking noises. A fellow passenger – a stranger – picked up her bag of food and threw it off the tube carriage at the next stop. Brilliant.
- Wash. Do you have any idea how unpleasant rush hour is at the best of times without my nose against your unwashed armpit?
- Loud Music. I don’t want to hear your music over mine and from the other side of the carriage. The dirty looks from fellow passengers are aimed at you.
- Mobile phones. I don’t want to hear your conversation and I don’t want to hear your ridiculous 1970s TV show ring tone – this is, quite simply, an irritant.
- Never discuss the end of books, movies or tv shows that you have seen. You will be ruining it for at least one fellow passenger.
- Cover your mouth when you cough – I don’t want your germs and I’m sure you don’t want to be the reason for the 21st Century spread of the plague.
- In fact, if you are ill – don’t use the tube at all.
- Stilettos. If you must wear these in on the tube, watch where you are standing. Much better to carry them in your bag and avoid breaking people’s toes. Because, let’s face it, you wont be able to stand for the whole journey without irritating someone.
- Don’t put your bags on the seat next to you. At some point, someone will want to sit down and I’m fairly sure your bags haven’t paid an extra ticket. And for that matter, don’t act surprised or annoyed when someone does ask to sit down instead of your bags.
I think these should be made into posters in time for the Olympics. If you could have a poster made with just one tube etiquette rule – what would it be?
The age old debate over whether upwards only rent reviews are fair and whether they should be prohibited has taken an interesting turn in Ireland following the pledge by Fine Gael and Labour to retrospectively ban them if they win power this week.
If anyone ever wondered the effects such a decision might have in reality, one potential outcome has been clearly demonstrated by reports of the proposed sale of Liffey Valley Shopping Centre being put on hold as a result of the announcement. If true it is not a great advert for how investors will potentially treat the Irish market with this concept in place. One would presumably need a level playing field on rent review legislation across Europe to prevent alienating a single market which prohibits upwards only reviews. And certainly for Ireland, without the UK continuing as stalwart of upwards only reviews (not likely seeing as we are still kicking the Human Rights Act ball around a generation later).
I am sure (I think) that the pledge has not been made lightly and much thought and analysis was undertaken before the announcement. However anyone hoping this might create a ripple effect in the UK will no doubt be dismayed.
If this becomes a reality, we will soon see if it acts as yet another pin in the Irish property bubble. It's difficult not to see it causing rewritten valuation reports overnight. Personally, with my vague hopes of retiring before I am 80 currently resting entirely with an institutional pension fund (whose returns are to some material extent built on upward only rent reviews being legal), I have never been entirely swayed by the tenants' camp on this one unless I'm negotiating a lease for one. Perhaps also because it is usually the big-time retailers who have bothered to lobby for legislation of this nature; their negotiating strength often presents as a 'cake and eat it' argument.
Having, with my team, negotiated a hat full of short term leases and index linked/turnover leases during the downturn, I have witnessed good old market forces doing the job, especially in the sub prime retail market which is where it counts most to me in these difficult times. It is hard to see where polarisation of the market towards prime will end at present.
Edward Cooke at BCSC summed up, in his recent reaction to increasingly poor void level data, with his recognition that this is not a "cyclical" issue but a "structural" one. Wise words, with which I wholly agree, as we see the increasing need for a wholesale change in use of the empty high street shops and older style shopping centre retail space that has piled up. This recession has always screamed the need for price correction and that would echo with all the failed retail businesses of the last three years.
We have had the price of borrowing money rocket and send us into the downturn, and now the threat of inflation is attacking the retail sector from the other direction.
Perhaps this bold proposal in Ireland will move its price correction along another stage whilst the UK, in its old fashioned way, manages its way through slowly without upsetting valuation principles too much. Personally, being reliant professionally on the flow of investment deals into the market, I am a fan of any tools to get prices "right" and the market flowing.
I hope the Irish get this decision right if they do legislate and it's a good shot in the arm. I worry though that it may ultimately be seen as the sort of action you take if your economy and property market is particularly stricken?
I'm always told by international clients that other European countries have far more flexible leasing arrangements than the UK does and yet it's never really impacted on our lease models. Perhaps though the lasting effects of the downturn will be new benchmarks in lease term length. I wonder if Fine Gael and Labour pondered that as an alternative; it can have the same effect but maybe it's not as headline grabbing.
I visited Glasgow recently. It is a city I think of as more true grit than elegant style. Perhaps it is a result of too much Taggart!
That thought also goes for the retail offer. Whilst Glasgow is consistently ranked as the number 2 retail location in the UK behind London, after a walk around you cannot help but to be left thinking exactly why is that?
There is no question that it is a city with history, culture, scale, a large manufacturing industry base, an established central business financial district with a catchment population of around 2 million. It is therefore fully powered up in terms of retail spending.
You do however come away with the feeling that it is time for Glasgow to have a little more retail glitz. There is no Selfridges or Harvey Nichols like there is in Birmingham or Manchester.
You also have to look hard to find a hint of the more aspirational and lifestyle brands, with only a limited luxury on Ingram Street and within Princes Square. The latter of which is being transformed by the refurbishment and the improvement in the tenant mix is great.
Whilst the classic Z pitch of Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street continues to offer a broad generally mid-priced offer, there is a sense that prime pitch is consolidating on Buchanan Street. St Enoch Centre has been transformed by Ivanhoe Cambridge and iconic brands such as Hamleys are the way the city wants to be moving.
There is no question that Braehead, Silverburn and The Fort will continue to improve their retail offer and there are certainly some great new signings at Braehead. There is no question that it is time for Glasgow to really showcase its status as the UK’s number 2 retail location.
Land Securities hold some of the keys to this and as Gemma Pratt from LS neatly puts it, Glasgow is all about the opportunity. Lets ensure the industry grasps the opportunity soon.
Mark Rigby is Chief Executive of CVS and Chairman of London Wasps.
Big game build ups tell you a lot about a side don’t they? With Saturday’s England v France game not only billed as the Grand Slam and Six Nations decider – but also all about who goes to New Zealand as Northern Hemisphere ‘Top Dogs’ – the pressure is starting to get to people.
I’ve never been a great fan of Lievremont but now I’m confused by his chat as much as I usually am by his selections. Bit odd to go off on one about us ‘Rosbifs’ and take a hefty swipe at good old English heritage. It speaks volumes for how people react to pressure and it’s something that fascinates me as both a sportsman and a Chief Executive.
What can you say to get the best out of people? How do you fire people up to help them exceed even their own expectations? How can you calm them when fear threatens to cramp their capability? All fascinating stuff and I’ve been impressed by Johnno’s response. No point opening your mouth when you’ve nothing to add. No point engaging in the debate when that will only help your opponent. “Action is eloquence”, as the old Bard said, and who better to define the essence of Englishness. The stage is certainly set for England to express themselves and do their talking on the pitch. Best way in my opinion.
This England side is looking good to me. Its got confidence, heads into the game off the back of a thumping win over Italy and has the benefit of the Twickenham factor too. Our pack looks up to the task, the scrum and lineout are working well, ball handling and decision making is good and that’s not even to mention the Ashton advantage. He is quite simply a nightmare to pick up defensively and that has to be worrying a side that’s shipped six tries already in the tournament.
When I look at France, I see a great back three but not much balance in the backs overall. Sure, they will compete up front and I expect that to be a pretty even contest but I have the feeling our centres – with back row support and ‘Mad Dog’ Moody back in the fold – will smother their attacking options when we are defending and will run smarter and better lines when we are on the front foot. It will certainly be fascinating with not much in it but I would genuinely be surprised if England don’t win by 3-6 points.
To revisit the subject of talking – one I know a good deal about! – we have a wonderful record of winding up the French where it counts: on the field and ideally within penalty goal kicking range. I think back to exponents like Brian Moore, a best in class example of how to rile a fiery French front row.
And what about Micky Skinner for old time’s sake – take that Eric Champ! I’d be amazed if we don’t see some sharp and spiky banter on Saturday and I can only see that working to England’s advantage.
Over in Rome, you have two sides on very different trajectories. Wales are on the up following a hard fought win in Edinburgh and Italy must be licking their wounds and wondering whether their Prime Minister or their rugby is the greater source of national embarrassment. If Hook is given the platform to perform again – as I expect he will be – I’m predicting more tries out wide for Williams and Co. Can’t see anything other than a Wales win here and I think it will be by a clear 12-15 points.
And what of Murrayfield and those ‘eloquent’ Jocks who are all too keen to join the chorus when the jibes are directed at England? I think they are in for another beating. Ireland will travel with the momentum because they moved on massively in the 80 minutes against France from their poor opening against Italy.
Scotland – with injuries and battered confidence – will be looking for some kind of inspiration (from players or coach Robinson) and I just can’t see where they’ll find it. I’m picking the Irish by 7-10 points.
Over at Adams Park, it’s been a busy week and thanks for the interest there. Rest assured my legs are staying well away from the tracksuit trousers and we’ll have more news on a far more capable coach than me to report shortly. We’ve also had a good time ribbing Lawrence over his Desert Island Discs. Hardly a connoisseur’s choice but at least his list wasn’t loaded with 70s classics like mine would be!
Come on England. Time to step forward and express yourselves. Let your deeds define you and let’s see what Lievremont has to say about that!
My calls for this weekend:
- England to beat France by 3-6 points
- Ireland to beat Scotland by 7-10 points
- Wales to beat Italy by 12-15 points.
Weekend Two Review
Mark Rigby is Chief Executive of CVS and Chairman of London Wasps.
You have to love rugby don’t you? Three cracking games, three really interesting results, and now it’s two weeks until this already lip-smacking fayre will be spiced up even more!
I didn’t see that Wales win in Edinburgh coming nor the way the Scots played and failed to take forward the promise of Paris. I talked last week about momentum. Scotland’s has trickled away. Wales’s has come roaring back. Anything to do with Andy Robinson’s new contract I wonder? Plenty of precedents would suggest that had a hand in it, whether consciously or subconsciously because we have all seen cases of post-contract ‘coasting’ – remember Capello in South Africa for one!
My summing up of the weekend is that England surprised, Scotland disappointed and Ireland frustrated.
From an English perspective, I was certainly hoping for the flair I mentioned last week but I didn’t expect to see so many scores nor so many Ashton Splashdowns. Flood and Co hit a rich vein and some of the stuff on display was simply scintillating. There was movement, outstanding support running, real attacking edge and quality application throughout the side. The pedant in me will say that there were still too many penalties and unnecessary errors for this England team to be considered ‘World Class’ but I have to say that I am feeling more and more positive about the direction we are headed.
Word is that Corbisiero was pretty useful in his ‘initiation singing’ as well as in the front row where he fronted up well against some grizzled Italian opposition. On top of having a good game, he apparently dumbfounded his teammates with some Jay Z style rapping and moves that had everyone sitting up and taking note. He’s a New Yorker so I guess it follows but the best we used to be able to muster was more like a croaky rendition of ‘New York, New York’ and be done with it!
Back to Murrayfield and all credit to the Welsh. Under pressure, Gatland has bitten back and his side has stood up. They destroyed the Scots forwards and I have to say that Scotland’s scrum was an embarrassment – they were annihilated in the tight. What’s more, while Wales ran from deep and with purpose, Scotland were so slow and sideways that they struggled to break the gain line and apply any real pressure or penetration. Jamie Roberts was back doing what he does best. Hook looked the part. Little wizard Williams notched again – it was like watching an engine start up after a long cold winter in the garage and splutter back to life.
So much improved was Wales’ back row play that the Wasps part of me is a little concerned for Andy Powell’s ability to get back in the side. He’s a top player though so that’s the challenge Gatland and any coach wants – picking players on form when spoilt for choice. I’m delighted for Shaun Edwards too. He had that Wales defensive line smothering and smashing up into the Scots who had no answer to it. A cracking example of aggressive defence with the rewards clear for all to see.
Across in Dublin – perhaps the best game of the weekend for tension and excitement – I felt sorry for the Irish. As others have said, you have to hand it to them for outscoring a decent French side three tries to one, but then you have to say that it was naive to lose the game too. That’s what I mean by ‘frustrated’ in my summary comments.
Ireland were so close to taking a notable scalp and they certainly stepped up big style from that languid performance in Rome. I liked the scrap and charge, I liked Heaslip bossing it around the base, I liked the overall physicality, but what can you say when a side keeps making errors? It’s the stuff to drive coaches mad and, by leaving the door just a wee bit ajar, Ireland paid the price when France came barging back through it at the end. Good show Ireland but some remedial work needed on closing out your opportunities and closing out a game. There will be ‘what ifs’ a plenty fuelling many a Guinness and game conversation across Dublin. The brutal reality, however, is that ‘what ifs’ don’t win you games and it’s points that count not tries.
So, here’s looking forward to this Six Nations stew really coming to the boil in a couple of weeks. Big games ahead and big opportunities too. I’ll be back with my thoughts and predictions next week. I’m still five from six so not bad! Keep your views coming – it’s tasty stuff all round!
Despite what some people think, I rarely go shopping. That is, I rarely set out to go shopping. But I do like to ‘mooch’ and along the way enjoy serendipitous finds that often translate into purchases.
So I am a ‘walking wallet’, the term we bandied around to secure investment in London’s public realm. As Justin Taylor sensibly asserts in his recent blog, attractive places are magnets for people: create quality destinations and ‘they’ will come – and shop.
The terrace was packed with people who had the same idea as us. (I predict it will soon be a location for wedding photos.)
The current fashion offer is not quite me so I felt on safe ground financially. But I didn’t bank on finding the perfect ‘hybrid’ walking/city coat in North Face, or the dedicated Dermalogica store. Not to mention Foyles.
After a veggie burger in Byron Burgers, we emerged into the twilight, my walking wallet £400 lighter. Oh, hum.
This news certainly pleased Colette O’Shea when I saw her presiding over the ‘Land Sec ladies’ table at BCO’s Annual Dinner, adding welcome colour to a room full of men in DJs. Hurrah!
One street where I can be found with a shopping list is Causewayhead, Penzance – for Cornwall is my regular haunt.
This ordinary semi-pedestrianised street is nonetheless a successful shopping street, full of good, independent, proper shops – kitchenware, hardware, greengrocers, health food, stationers, newsagents, as well as Cornish art and a whole lot more. There is little churn and voids are few and far between.
It’s close to the town’s official high street, with its handsome buildings and proportions, ancient granite kerbs and a magnificent view. Yet like so many others, it is peppered with pound shops and phone shops, banks and bookies (see Claer Barratt’s blog) so I rarely need to use it.
So clearly, good shops can trump good bone structure. Add them together and it’s a recipe for success.
Back in London Shaftesbury is my retail hero; quietly creating the neighbourhoods and ecology to attract both good, largely independent, retailers and the customers to sustain them. Portman’s New Quebec Street is another little gem.
Few property owners hold a portfolio that emulates the likes of Shaftesbury, Portman or Howard de Walden, so it makes sense to come together to work out the magic ingredients to sustain their shopping street. Be it BIDs or simple voluntary partnerships, a collective endeavour, and critical mass, can mean the difference between success or failure.
For a long time I have thought there are at least two things which do not feature strongly enough (if at all) on most university courses, for those seeking to enter the surveying profession. These two things are relationship management and marketing.
Throughout my time in the property industry, these two important skill sets are ones that most people constantly need to develop.
Let us take an example from the retail market this week to illustrate the point.
I am sure relationships and marketing are very topical this week for Jacqueline Gold, the owner of Ann Summers. Miss Gold, having survived a bizarre poisoning plot by her nanny will be working hard on adding the romantic flare to many relationships.
At the same time she has also rebranded a number of her company’s stores this week as Man Summers, centred around the needs of male customers, which seems like a great marketing idea.
Quality relationships, be they with colleagues or customers, together with creative marketing, go straight to the bottom line and create value.
Jeremy Newsum made a similar point in Property Week last week, when he spoke about – ‘people, people, people’ and them being an integral part of any marketing and product development. His point was slightly different but equally valid, driving at the importance of the end user for any building.
For my money, if universities and companies are looking for where they should invest their capital, it should be in the critical areas of coaching around the complex areas of relationships, people and marketing.
How to cope with rising inflation is the number one concern of retailers right now. The situation is so serious it has pushed their other big problem - the dwindling pot of consumer spend – into second place. Why?
Last week, cotton hit its highest price in the 141-year history of the New York cotton exchange, having more than doubled in price in the last year. In turn, this has pushed up the price of man-made fabrics like viscose and polyester as retailers buy more of those to make “blended” garments (have you noticed the increasingly crackly nature of clothes on the rails these days?)
The trend of rising prices is echoed in food commodities, oil, and petrochemicals such as polyethylene. I had never heard of the last one until I covered Carpetright’s profit warning for the paper last week – they’re the plastic chips used to make man-made carpet fibre. The price has increased from £800 to £1,400 a ton in the last three months, bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘carpet burn’.
The short answer for the price hikes is China. Increased consumer demand over there, combined with a series of natural disasters and failed harvests, is absorbing much more of the world’s supplies. The head of a major UK department store told me over breakfast this week that China is now a net importer of cotton, and that India has stopped exporting cotton, an indirect result of the floods in Pakistan.
This has led to what he terms “margin elasticity”. In plain English, this means retailers are stealthily putting their prices up, passing the cost hike onto the consumer. Many retailers use the rule of thumb that every 1% added to the margin will cost them a 1% decline in sales volumes. So, they’re prepared to sell less, providing they maintain profitability. This will strike fear into the hearts of any landlords with retailers on turnover rents.
There’s very little hope of rental inflation – except for in Europe, where retail rents are usually pegged to RPI. However, one positive trend for the property industry I’ve noticed is the extent of shop-fitting and store refurbishment going on. Just like the British consumer, retailers are trying to do more with less.
Claer Barrett is retail correspondent on the Financial Times, and previously wrote for Investors Chronicle and Property Week.
Mark Rigby is Chief Executive of CVS and Chairman of London Wasps.
Success breeds success. Ask any player what makes them feel confident and comfortable heading into the big match occasion and they’ll all tell you it’s playing well and winning games. When you’re up for it, you can’t get enough or get it soon enough.
So good news that it’s another Six Nations fest this weekend – and then Valentine’s Day on Monday. The English and French squads and their coaches will be feeling good – and I reckon the Scots will be pretty mad for it too. Tasty fixtures to take a look at this weekend: a wounded Wales travel to Murrayfield, England host Italy and, perhaps the most enticing of all, the French trot out in Dublin.
Let’s start with some reflections on Cardiff – what a belter that was! Arguably England never looked like losing and I, for one, was impressed by so much good work in the tight. What joy to see English forwards rumbling and rampaging again! Critics might say that while there was plenty of power, flair was in scant supply but I’d say there’s time to get that right.
I was hugely impressed by Tom Wood (playing my old position but faster and smarter!) and by the way England shut down and smothered the Welsh. When they did have the ball, it was usually going sideways and Mike Phillips’ frustration was there for all to see. Johnno, with his delayed ‘rollickings” will no doubt be asking his backs coaches to add some silk alongside the already evident steel. I think that will come. This is a young side and it is building momentum.
Will the French have packed their kit bags for Dublin with whatever was in there last week? We shall see. I thought they showed some of their sublime best in moments at the Stade de France. When they are on the rails like that, they’re very easy on the eye if not the oppo! But Scotland? Not bad either.
That’s a definite B+ performance and I’m getting twitchy about pegging them for fifth in the tournament. They should do better if they play every match like they played in Paris.
Ireland look like they don’t know how to recapture the spirit of old. OK, they were missing some big guns last week but it simply shows the thinness of the squad and they were lucky to get away from Rome with the win.
O’Gara was the one man who responded to the pressure. The rest of the Irish looked like they were going to blow a gasket as Italian persistence resulted in poor decision-making and poor execution.
So, what can we expect this weekend? Game of the weekend has to be Murrayfield for me. Wales have everything to prove and must really be hurting. Scotland will be fired up to be back home and fancying their chances. Scotland also have the momentum – there was plenty to take from that performance in Paris – and Wales’ momentum is 180 degrees the other way. No-one wants to clock a double-figure losing sequence!
Far be it for me to tempt fate – three from three with one ‘perfect’ call in the Wales v England game – but I see this as a nailed on Scots win. Scotland are decent in their own back yard so I’m predicting more pain for the Welsh. Jocks to win by 7 points (especially now Wasps’ Andy Powell looks to be out with a shoulder injury).
Ireland is the mystery of the weekend. On the ‘Enchanted Isle’, the home side will be looking for that touch of magic or quicksilver to get their season back on track. If it does click for the Irish and the French fail to travel (not in an airport strike kind of way!), well who knows? But my head is saying this is a French win by 7-10 points.
England bring their momentum home to Twickenham and I can’t see the Italians knocking Johnno’s men off their stride. Italy should bring some tight five vigour and they certainly know how to front up for a good old fashioned forwards slug fest – but I don’t think they’ll have enough to keep a lid on England for 80 minutes. Will England bring it all to the boil? Big question.
I’d love to see Flood bossing it again and using the time he’ll have against ‘inferior’ backs this week to unlock space and cut the back three loose. If that happens, we’ll have good reason to expect flair and even some swagger. That would be nice, especially if this side is going to start sending the right messages out ahead of the World Cup. Champions need that touch of arrogance.
The result? I’m saying England by 6-9 points.
I’m liking the look of this weekend more and more. The stage is set, teams are on the move, and points are there to take – and there to make too!
My calls for this weekend are:
Scotland to beat Wales by 7 points.
England to beat Italy by 6-9 points.
France to beat Ireland by 7-10 points.