Commercial Property Blog
All posts from: May 2011
I went to Old Trafford on Tuesday 12 April knowing that I had to leave the ground at least 10 minutes before the final whistle. I had agreed to meet an important client for dinner in Manchester city centre and could not be late. As Drogba scored for Chelsea, I looked at my watch: I had to leave in three minutes. Fortunately, however, Park Ji-Sung fired in the winner less than 30 seconds later, meaning that I could leave early with a clear conscience.
As I waited in the restaurant for my host and his other guests to arrive, I took the opportunity to review the wine list. Mr Wing is more famous for the quantity of Cristal Champagne that he sells to Premiership footballers and local entrepreneurs than he is for his food, which is distinctly average. Sure enough, the first thing my client ordered was a bottle of Cristal Rose 2002 (£495): salmon pink colour; intense, complex nose full of red fruit, citrus and sweet spices; a crisp, zesty palate layered with concentrated, candied fruits; and a long finish. Each time I returned to the glass something new emerged from it as if to challenge any doubt in my mind as to the wine’s perfection.
Cristal Rose 2002 is a tough act to follow but Lafite Rothschild 2006 (£500) is more than capable of meeting the challenge: deep ruby, purple colour; astonishing nose combining crème de cassis, pencil shavings, cedar and black truffle; a concentrated palate; silky tannins; and an exceptional length. The fact that a wine capable of ageing for more than half a century or more can be drunk now is a testament to the skill of the wine maker and the quality of Lafite Rothschild’s vineyards. I can safely say that this is one of my top ten wines of all time.
There was a short debate about whether the next wine should be another bottle of Lafite Rothschild 2006 or instead Lafite Rothschild 2002 (£500). As it’s not every day that one has the opportunity to taste two vintages of Lafite Rothschild, we opted for the 2002. There was a lot of similarity between the 2002 and 2006 but just as with Manchester United and Chelsea there has to a winner and a loser. By comparison with the 2006, the 2002 seemed to lack structure. I should add, however, that this is about the only criticism I could think of as like its brother the 2002 is one the best wines I have ever tasted. I now understand why Lafite Rothschild is the wine of choice for Chinese billionaires.
First day at ICSC ReCon this year was Sunday, although the convention centre wasn’t open which was good as it made for a far more relaxing time meetings in hotels.
Source: Ken Lund
Still certain landlords such as Simon and Macherich have taken up ballrooms at Ceasar’s to hold their meetings. They must still be at loggerheads with ICSC over the fees!
It isn’t easy for us trying to get between meetings, taking into account travel times and taxi queues it effectively means less time for meetings themselves which is the whole point of ReCon, the sooner they sort this spat the better for all.
Americans do know how to put on a show and nobody does it better than Las Vegas. Long day ahead of meetings, some at Ceasars and some in the convention centre. It seems quite a few US retailers are keen to talk about European expansion.
On the retail side, Forum shops in Ceasars has been busy and H&M have a fantastic looking store there, the entrance is 40 foot high at least and there is a DJ high up in a balcony as you walk in, which was impressive.
Landed in Las Vegas for 10th year, it hasn’t really changed much since I first came.
Source: David Vasquez
The place is as big now as it was then, that’s what it’s about I guess….only thing that has changed is you get a few more of us Brits over hunting for US retailers willing to take the plunge into the unknown scary European property market!
The appetite seems to change once the retailers start to reach saturation point in their markets.
They look at Canada as international and that can be done in 20 stores, so they look at Europe or Asia.
Nowadays add in Middle East which is almost a no brainer with the structure of entry there. England next, no language problems.
So onto tomorrow where the fun begins. Who wants to follow the lead of Disney, Gap, Forever 21, Polo Ralph Lauren, Skechers, Apple and Abercrombie?? Watch this space……
So this week we have the news that so called Queen of Shops Mary Portas has finally grabbed the ear of the Prime Minister David Cameron who wants a little advice on how local community stores can be saved from the onslaught of their bigger, more competitive national rivals.
Portas has long been running a campaign calling for the likes of Tesco to work alongside rather than against their local counterparts using their massive profits to help the very businesses that struggle because of them. Now in her new role as Government advisor she claims she will help to thrash out in the next six months, a serious plan to rescue the UK’s high streets.
But in reality can it really be done? Such campaigns have been attempted before and whilst consumers may say they want to shop in their local stores and support their local businesses convenience, time and cost savings more often than not win the battle for spend over a shopper’s conscience or desire to be supporting local companies.
But equally the national giants don’t want to be seen as destroying the communities into which they enter. With the accusations that their rollouts were causing a clone town effect still ringing in their ears many multiples need to support the efforts of the agents, developers and shopping centres with which they work to sustain and grow local businesses alongside their own.
Whatever happens Portas’ role will be an interesting one. While in theory the bigger players could, as she suggests, put their hand in their pockets to support the smaller, local retailers ultimately more radical thinking – such as closer partnerships between national and local retailers – is needed. That however is unlikely to happen. Instead the real battle is in persuading local shoppers to dual shop – supporting both their local butchers, bakers and greengrocers for example – on top of their regular supermarket shops.
So after a very successful trip to the North Col and above, we slogged eight hours and 20 miles back down to Base Camp to join the rest of the team.
It was great to be back together as one team and the others were full of anticipation watching the weather and waiting for the seven day window needed to have a shot at the summit.
Now I needed to decide what to do.
For Dad the decision was easy – in reaching the North Col he had reached the absolute limit of his endurance and could go no further. He was going home.
For me the decision was a little harder. I had proved myself as probably the fittest member of the team and certainly the one person everyone assumed would make the summit.
Source: Richard Walker
The Sherpas kept saying how strong I was (probably because, like them, I am short and don’t weigh much and so have the ability to go uphill quickly!) and that I could go all the way.
Before the trip began I assumed that I would go for the summit. However, being out here for so long has made me think hard about my responsibilities as a husband and dad.
I have decided that the level of risk in going for the summit is not acceptable for me. Five years ago perhaps, but not now that I have other people to think of as well as myself.
Most of the other members of the summit team are also husbands and fathers. However, for them the risk level of summiting is acceptable because it is what they have always dreamed of. I’m a bit of a fraud in that sense.
I have not spent years dreaming of reaching the summit. Indeed, until a year ago I had never even considered it. Twelve months ago I had never held an ice axe or worn a pair of crampons. So for me the reward of summiting is not so great that I feel I should risk anything in getting there.
It’s a hard decision to make and I know a part of me will regret it; but it is the right decision.
Never short on ambition, it was only nine months ago that Dad and I set our target of reaching the North Col .. .and then walked up Snowdon for the first time!
We never realised just how hard climbing to 7,000 metres would be but we achieved our goal. Now is a good time to bow out, and quit whilst we’re winning.
It’s been a great adventure. I would not have missed it for the world.
The rise of “austerity retailing” is one of the most compelling themes for retailers, and property landlords.
Last week, the bi-annual shopping centres survey from Trevor Wood Associates proved what many suspected – namely that value brands are filling the gaps in UK malls.
The fact that Poundland is the fastest-growing shopping centre tenant (closely followed by Greggs the Baker) will shock some landlords, who fear that pound shops will “lower the tone” of their centres.
But as shoppers feel the pinch, the huge footfall that value retailers generate - not to mention the huge rents they’re prepared to commit to - means snobbishness is quickly forgotten.
However, it’s not all good news for landlords. If the value operators are upscaling and going into the shopping centres, what’s left for local high streets – typically the place to find “value” for poorer shoppers? The answer isn’t pretty – and it is affecting local shopping locations in the north and south of the country.
A shop vacancy report update from the Local Data Company showed (predictably) that the north is suffering more than the south, but there were a worrying number of neighbourhood shopping locations in Greater London with retail vacancy rates as high, or higher, than some northern towns.
We may like to think that London has escaped the recession, but fringe areas of Kensal Town, North Cheam, Lee Green and Forest Hill all have vacancy rates above 25% - that’s nearly as bad as Blackpool! And there are 16 further London districts, including Brixton, Bow, Woolwich and Archway, where shop vacancy rates are well above the national average of 14.5 per cent.
The main problem for these locations is, unless you happen to live there, you’re not going to travel to shop there. Add on the “death star” effect of supermarkets sucking the last breath out of struggling independents, and you wonder if retail uses will ever return, even when the negative economic tailwinds have subsided.
All of this leads the Javelin Group to predict that 25 per cent of current retail space will be empty by 2020. It sounds alarmist, but a quick glance at the property strategies of national retail chains shows clear evidence of a desire to downsize.
Retailers are trying to do more with less space, reduce their store footprints and are getting smarter at using the internet to expand their product range, rather than pay for extra square footage. All of which should make retail landlords grateful to accept the discounter’s pound.
The next morning the storm had disappeared and it was a beautiful clear day.
Source: Richard Walker
From 7,020m the world looks amazing, and the views down to ABC and up to the summit of the world were crystal clear. The summit looked so close, and you could see the four day route perfectly that leads to the top.
Dad and Rikki were well and truly whacked, and spent the morning recuperating. I headed off for an acclimatisation walk with Alan and Zangdu, a charming and tough Sherpa who has summited seven times.
Source: Richard Walker
I took my oxygen cylinder and mask but decided to try and not use it, which I managed to do.
We slowly plodded up the whale backed snow slope toward Camp 2.
The walk was tough but manageable, and I loved getting that bit closer to the summit and seeing how the route to the top progressed.
After about an hour we got to about 7,200m and reluctantly had to turn round, as we needed to get back to the North Col and descend down to ABC.
Needless to say the descent was quicker than the ascent, but due to the steepness of the ice wall and wearing crampons we all had to be very careful. Clipping into the fixed rope was essential, as one slip and we might fall 600m down.
We returned to ABC triumphant but knackered, and decided on a rest day the next day before proceeding back to Base Camp to rejoin the others and think about what we would do now.
Well, we finally got to Advanced Base Camp (ABC). It is a two day trek ascending 1,200m over about 20km.
At altitude that hurts a lot, and I was really surprised at how tough it was. The worst bit however is the ‘Interim Camp’ overnight stop. It’s horrible; but at least that provides a motivator on the second morning to get out of there a.s.a.p. and carry on up to ABC.
My time to get from Interim to ABC of five hours was the quickest out of the whole group, so my smugness levels were pretty high upon arrival.
In one way it’s good to be here – Everest is right above us, with the North Col acting like a giant 600m ice wall that we have to climb up to get onto to the ridge that leads to the top. It feels like we are making progress and our target of the North Col isn’t far away now.
Source: Richard Walker
However, the downside is that we are now living at 6,400m! No humans on the planet live at these altitudes and as our team doctor bluntly put it we are all slowly dying.
Everything is a massive effort: after getting dressed in the morning you need to sit down to recover for 10 minutes. Drinking makes you out of breath. No appetite. Constant headaches, nausea, blocked noses.
The lack of oxygen effects your circulation and so at night you get cold and can’t stop shivering no matter how many layers you put on. My advice is to stick to Padstow or Barbados as altitude is horrible!
It’s good to be back together with the rest of the team, although pretty shocking to see the deterioration in them after five days at ABC. Someone’s tooth randomly fell out today; something to do with air pressure on the root! It’s like a high altitude old people’s home.
Another unfortunate side effect is that I seem to be turning into Howard Hughes. Half the team are suffering from a baffling range of ailments such as sore throats, strep coughs, giardia (!)...you name it.
Germs are everywhere and I’ve become hyper sensitive not to catch them. I haven’t quite resorted to roping off areas of my tent yet, but I do insist on my own mug and sterilising pretty much everything before use.
Source: Richard Walker
I even sleep in a daft mask to stop me getting a cough from the dry air (once they catch a “Kumbu Cough” people have been known to break ribs from the violent coughing fits or even to cough up parts of their throat lining).
So the guys who have been here for a few days longer are trying for the North Col today and then will be heading down to Base Camp soon after, as there is a trade-off between acclimatisation and deterioration. Dad, myself and Alan will have a few more days of resting and rope training before attempting the North Col. After which we’ll also head back down to the thicker air.
So after sitting around at the unhealthy altitudes of ABC, it was time to make our attempt on the North Col. That is why we came to the mountain and there was no use putting it off any longer, as the trade-off between our bodies acclimatising and deteriorating was starting to show. We had to get down to lower altitudes soon.
The North Col was already proving itself to be no easy feat. As part of the team was ahead of us, some of them had already attempted the near 1000 metre climb.
Three of them did not make it (after three attempts). The Seven Summiteer and mountain enthusiast was sick when he reached the top. The impressively fit Red Arrows pilot coughed up blood as he staggered into camp. So needless to say Dad and I were slightly worried that we had set ourselves too ambitious a target!
To get to the foot of the 600 metre ice wall that you have to climb up to reach the North Col, there is a two and a half hour walk to get there up a steady incline. As we were now in serious mountain conditions, we were wearing our ‘summit boots’ to protect us from the cold and snow. It made walking cumbersome and slow.
Source: Richard Walker
Halfway into the walk to the ice wall you reach ‘Crampon Point’, where you put on your harnesses and crampons in advance of reaching the ice wall. The North Col climb is probably the most technical section of the whole of the Everest north face ascent.
‘Jumar Point’ marks the foot of the ice wall and is where the fixed ropes begin. We reached this point within about two hours despite the weather closing in and a snow storm around us. Things weren’t looking good – the others had struggled in sunny weather and we were taking on the North Col in a storm. Graham at ABC radioed twice to see if we were still proceeding.
The standard four hour ascent of the 600 metre ice wall was definitely the hardest part of the whole trip. The gradient was 50 degrees in some places and you could see other climbers slowly making their way up the cliff like little ants disappearing into the distance. If you look carefully at the photo and zoom in, you will see the lines of climbers going up the ice wall.
Source: Richard Walker
But being built like a Sherpa (i.e. small and light!) I seemed to race up the cliff much faster than the others. Indeed, Dad had several Sherpas come up to him saying “Your son – strong!” What a compliment coming from those guys!
After about 20 lines of fixed ropes and three hours I was making good progress. Then my heart stopped.
We were very near the top and were faced with three ladders lashed together, forming a makeshift bridge over a bottomless crevasse.
News to me - I thought there were no such ladders on the North side! To make matters worse, the ladder was not fixed into the snow at either end, just lain on top of the ground. This made it wobble and bow as you went over it.
Source: Richard Walker
At the end of the ladder was a near vertical 20 foot scramble; and then – finally – I was in camp. Our tents were at the far end of the 40 foot line of tents, and hilariously this took about 10 minutes to walk as I had to stop every few steps for breath.
As soon as I collapsed into the communal tent I took a picture of myself – I think from the expression on my face you can tell how tough the climb was!
Dad did amazingly well and an hour later also collapsed into camp. He ascended using oxygen and just kept ploughing on; refusing to give up. He completed the climb in an impressive six hours.
Not bad for a 65 year old who has never climbed mountains before!
The final member of the team that day, Rikki, was about two hours after Dad.
He is the most stubbornly determined guy I have ever met. Despite suffering from a bronchial infection for weeks, he refused to give up.
He staggered in almost as it was going dark, clutching his chest and whispering “I can’t breathe!” I honestly thought he was about to have a heart attack and die.
That night we huddled together in the communal tent. I had about 10 cups of tea and pasta soup cooked in melted snow, which tasted fantastic.
It was very cold - I put on my thermals, down summit suit, hat, gloves AND slept in my sleeping bag. We all slept on oxygen that night and bizarrely I slept well…and dreamed of doing property deals!!