At the beginning of a new year and decade, property’s leading lights reveal their hopes, expectations and resolutions for 2020 in the first of a two-part special running over the next two weeks.

Matthew Weiner

Matthew Weiner

Chief executive, U+I

Given the areas of the UK the Conservatives won (particularly the north), I hope government will focus on the regeneration of ‘left-behind’ communities and look for partners in the private sector to help leverage public land and deliver high-quality public infrastructure, homes, places and community facilities. This is a huge opportunity for our industry and we must all now throw our shoulders to the wheel and work hard, together, to make the future of the UK a success.

U+I will be pressing ahead with our circa £11bn development programme, delivering the thoughtful mixed-use regeneration developments we have been designing and planning over the past four years.

We will also open our first two Plus X innovation hubs at our Old Vinyl Factory development in Hayes and at Preston Barracks, Brighton’s largest regeneration scheme. These will be the first nodes in a national network of innovation hubs that will provide incubation space for the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs and makers and kickstart economic activity within large-scale regeneration schemes.

I also expect to see the continuing evolution of real estate into a service rather than an asset.

Resolutions: I won’t be running a marathon or taking up yoga, but I do want to put greater focus on wellbeing. For me that means trying to sleep more and to practise mindfulness to help clarify my thinking and avoid over-analysis.

Within U+I we will continue to build on our diversity, an area where the industry performs so badly – not just gender diversity but ethnic and neural diversity.

We must continue to be bold, to challenge conventional thinking and stay true to our mission to create authentic, thoughtful mixed-use regeneration projects that have a genuinely positive social impact.

We must lean into the great challenges of our age – the climate emergency and social inequality. We can now measure and improve environmental performance, but we must find better ways to measure social value. We have resolved to be right at the vanguard of that and will be setting out a new policy on social impact this year.   

Simon Murphy

Simon Murphy

Chief executive, Battersea Power Station Development Company

I hope London’s property market continues to progress, supported by a stable economy. It’s an exciting time for emerging destinations such as Battersea Power Station as the market recognises their potential.

Successful neighbourhoods should be accessible, encourage collaboration, promote social interaction and inspire creativity. This is something we strive for at Battersea Power Station, where our ready-made neighbourhood offers a variety of amenities and fosters a thriving community.

The area’s image has been boosted as a competitive tech and media district, with a new design and technological hub being approved this year by Wandsworth Council.

I expect this to continue to draw interest to the area as a truly mixed-use destination and attract an increasing number of occupiers, retailers and homebuyers keen to be part of something as progressive and forward-thinking as the community here.

Ailish Christian-West

Ailish Christian-West

President, Revo

The future of our cities, towns and high streets depends on our ability to attract talent from all backgrounds and experiences, as we are creating places for people to live, work and play.

An inclusive and diverse talent pool is one of the key ingredients needed to bring forward ideas that will attract capital to invest and ensure we are delivering vibrant and sustainable places, where people want to spend their time.

To be an industry of choice for the next generation and remain so for our current cohort of professionals, we need to demonstrate our commitment to limiting our impact on the environment. Every aspect of our impact needs to be reviewed, from our design and development through to our approach to property management. There are pockets of our industry making great strides and I hope they will take the time to share progress and learning.

I expect the pace of change to accelerate as consumers adapt faster to new ways of shopping and demand for experiences grows. While technology will be critical to this, I also think human engagement will be essential and will be one of the most valued elements of service provision.

More traditional retailers will continue to be challenged, while the most productive brands will invest in physical space to broaden their customer engagement. The polarisation of successful retail into either the convenience or experiential categories will continue. Winning destinations will be those that connect with consumers and move away from being a collection of shops to offering the curation of brands, services and amenities.

Resolutions: To spend time listening to Revo members and ensure I play my role in shaping the organisation to meet the future needs of our members.     

James Ebel HDH

James Ebel

Chief executive, retail consultancy, Harper Dennis Hobbs

An overhaul of the current business rates system is needed, or at the least the government should be taking a closer look at providing greater rate reliefs for an industry struggling with property costs. More affordable occupancy costs would go some way to halt the decline of the British high street by reducing the need for retailers with long-standing portfolios to close stores and cut jobs.

If it doesn’t happen in 2020, we should at least know what form Brexit will take. Clarity will help retailers by allowing them to plan their supply of goods better. The current government has announced that tariffs on incoming goods will be close to, or actually zero – this is good for both consumers and retailers.

I also expect tourism to the UK, particularly in London, to continue to flourish, keeping the capital’s reputation as an international retail destination firmly intact. It is clear that the latest generation of shoppers is increasingly valuing retail experiences, and these experiences are having a hugely positive impact on sales through ecommerce and wholesale. I fully expect this trend of brands opening stores that aim to capture attention, entertain and create excitement about their products to continue throughout 2020.

Resolutions: We will continue to search for what’s new, fresh and exciting in the retail and leisure market, working to bring these brands to Europe from the US and other territories.

At HDH, we plan to double down in markets we are doing well in and look further into new areas of expansion.

Our team will be digging deeper into new emerging trends here in the UK, such as dark kitchens and hyper-local fulfilment centres, both of which we will see continue to disrupt the traditional retail and leisure markets – an exciting space to watch!

Camilla Topham

Camilla Topham

Co-founder, Distrkt

2019 was a great year for Distrkt and we are advising on some of the most exciting F&B destinations in London and across the UK. We plan to take our services a step further with the launch of Residency in 2020.

The hospitality sector is currently experiencing tough times and has and will see sites going back to landlords. This, coupled with consumer demand for experiences and changing concepts, has led us to create Residency with restaurant consultants Montana Fogg.

We will quickly and easily be able to occupy vacant spaces with good-quality, relevant operators that will create income for landlords and create vibrancy while they consider long-term strategy. It is so flexible that we can pop up anywhere as long as there is a space.

With the well-publicised CVAs in the casual dining sector last year, ongoing Brexit woes and the recent election, operators have been increasingly cautious with regard to expansion.

Those that are active are more independent-led and have sought to take advantage of market conditions. We expect these operators to propose more collaborative partnerships with landlords, particularly for sites that are not prime.

Last year was all about foodhalls and there are a number still to open in 2020. We expect this market to grow in the regions but for there to be some oversaturation in London. Competitive socialising and immersive leisure concepts will continue to thrive as consumers seek experiences and we expect this market to evolve further.

Resolutions: To grow both my family and my business without compromising one or the other. The industry remains an unequal playing field, with many companies continuing to be rigid in practices and culture.

Distrkt will continue to create a modern working culture that leads by example in terms of being a successful business that supports both women and men and promotes trust and flexibility. Until company cultures change and men are encouraged by their employers to participate in family life, inequality will exist.   

Christine Grace

Christine Grace

Leasing director, Realm

2020’s retail picture is still fairly hazy. I hope we will see more of a hands-on approach to retail leasing models with landlords and tenants being more open to conversations about how they can work together successfully, emulating the success of the outlet model.

I expect to see more of a spotlight on customer services and its ability to transform a retail destination along with the customers’ experience and perception of it. We’ve seen great results from this at Livingston Designer Outlet in Scotland where our team has introduced a revamp of its guest services, which has raised the bar in becoming more guest-centric. The £7m redevelopment won Re:fresh Five at the Revo Gold Awards earlier this month, something we’re really proud of.

Resolutions: To listen to more podcasts.

Nicolas Guérin

Nicolas Guérin

Managing director, Linkcity

I hope Brexit will be delivered in an orderly and pragmatic fashion, while the property industry continues to innovate and embrace technology and new construction methods.

I expect sustainability to play a predominant role. The size and passion of the Extinction Rebellion marches during 2019 demonstrated that this is a huge priority for the public and those who fail to act now to make their buildings and their construction processes more environmentally friendly risk being left behind. We have a responsibility to address our impact on climate change.

I also expect London to continue to be a vibrant and relevant global economic centre, regardless of the way Brexit is delivered. I anticipate that the effects of leaving the EU will be felt more acutely in the regions than in the capital.

Resolutions: To stay focused on delivering high-quality schemes and to continue increasing our engagement with local communities. The rise of populism all over the world demonstrates that we as developers have a huge social responsibility and above all need to put people first.

Housing is a key issue and the industry has a significant role to play in finding a solution. Only by working together with local authorities and the people around our sites can we ensure we’re delivering schemes that take into account their needs and improve their quality of life.

We are also determined to begin this new decade by giving a massive push to digital transformation and industrialisation, which have the potential to make a huge difference to our industry.

Continue to part seven here