I distinctly remember claiming mileage for a road trip from London to Swansea when I was a graduate at Edward Erdman and thinking that 420 miles (including a theoretical detour) at 8p per mile seemed like a major journey.
No iPhone, Bluetooth or satnav - just a pocket full of 2p pieces to phone the office to prove I was roughly where I said I would be going, and Meat Loaf on the cassette player of my 205 GTI.
How times change. With the advent of conferences, trade shows, study tours and meetings with international partners and retailers, demands on time (and budget) are acute.
The typical retail leasing executive or agent is inundated with opportunities to meet retailers, promote their instructions, extend their networks, hunt for new business, and wine and dine clients. This week was Completely Retail (thankfully in London, and only four miles away via two tubes) - a must-attend event.
Last week, Milan was the focus for the ICSC European Conference (return flight 1,600 miles), and before that it was the BCSC-organised study tour to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (four flights, 13,912 miles); Mapic and Mipim, both in Cannes (1,700 miles each); Expo Retail in Munich (1,414 miles); SEIC Paris (570 miles); Deal Makers, New York - the international leasing fair (6,918 miles); Recon, Las Vegas - the international retail conference (10,343 miles); and, most importantly, the BCSC conference in Manchester (416 miles).
Now, not all these are compulsory, but by the time you add travel costs, time away from the office, delegate fees and stand production, the total outlay is pretty significant. Nonetheless the conferencing industry is growing (probably faster than the real estate industry) and every year there are more opportunities that, as an industry, we are afraid to miss.
Organisers strive to make their events unmissable and unique, not all delegates pay to attend, and some have dedicated teams who will ‘reach out’ to business targets on your behalf.
The change since 2008 is dramatic and indicative of the number of businesses that feed on the property market and live and die by its performance. The global event industry is estimated to be worth almost £40bn a year, and irrespective of whether the UK votes for change or stability in June’s referendum, I am sure that more conferences and leasing fairs will appear on the agenda, each promising a unique opportunity to promote every aspect of the retail and leisure industry.
The Lunson Mitchenall leasing team is now busy following up on last week’s Completely Retail event. Diaries were packed with meetings with retailers, agents and landlords. This and the autumn equivalent are a great environment for speed leasing, but each 20-minute session needs to be diligently followed up so the momentum is not lost.
In the current world, maintaining a churn of deals is imperative. Last year, Lunson Mitchenall completed more than 680 retail leasing deals on behalf of clients, representing a total rent roll of £64m. Whether any of these directly came from UK and international conferences is a matter of debate, but there is no doubt the opportunity to meet principals, iron out issues and explain background is a real help.
And if, having travelled the 38,577 miles to go to all these events, you still haven’t collected enough air miles to fly your family to somewhere sunny, you can always add ICSC Asia in Manila (13,332 miles).
Neil Hockin is head of shopping centre leasing at Lunson Mitchenall