How have two giant shopping teams been merged?

Five months after DTZ’s £60m takeover of Donaldsons, the novelty has worn off.

Some staff from the combined retail team left. The rest an 850-strong team who are working on 400 destinations totalling 65m sq ft in 34 countries are part of a restructuring process led by retail head Martyn Chase.

‘Retail was the driver for the merger,’ says Chase, who today explains exactly how DTZ’s retail business across Europe and the Middle East will be structured.

Chase will remain executive chairman of retail at the firm, while the rest of the team will be split across nations and five key business lines: leasing, capital markets, retail asset management, development consultancy, and research and marketing.

The arrangement aims to draw on the retail skills of the Donaldsons employees the company is now a wholly owned subsidiary of DTZ and the global reach of the original DTZ staff.

‘Donaldsons had a more service-line structure and DTZ had more of a regional structure,’ says Eileen Connolly, a director at DTZ who used to work for Donaldsons. ‘The decision was made to treat retail as a national business.’

The structure relies on the London-based senior team supporting those in the UK regional offices, who will have to think beyond their locales, and those abroad. The management is focused within these five separate teams, rather than on the basis of one overarching hierarchy.

‘[The structure] depends upon strong internal communications, with core values extending through the service lines and out into the regions,’ says Connolly.

It is hoped that this approach will create a centrally managed pool of expertise that will allow a client to work with the same team or person regardless of geographical boundaries. ‘Retail almost more than in any other discipline is about people,’ she says. ‘Sometimes a client will say: “I want her,” or “I want him.”’

If they are the right person for the job, they will look after clients whose schemes are scattered across the UK.

A la Carte

The structure is also designed to give clients the chance to pick and choose from a menu of services. With 50m sq ft of retail in the UK development pipeline, the team hopes to appeal to developers working here.

Despite what he describes as ‘the doom and gloom’ in the property market, Chase says the retail market is ‘looking pretty buoyant’.

‘Even in the UK retail is looking positive 2008 is the year of opening shopping centres,’ he says. DTZ is the letting agent for five centres that are opening next year, among them Westfield London in White City, west London.

In a tough investment market, the retail asset management team will look to help clients raise value in their existing assets. The structure is also aimed at improving DTZ’s performance across continental Europe and the Middle East. The idea is that developers in immature markets will be able to employ the expertise they need.

Chase thinks the research and marketing team will be particularly useful in emerging markets, where more developers that have not been involved in ‘organised retail’ will want to learn from the experience of those that have worked in other countries.

The newly combined business has been awarded contracts across Europe, such as developing strategic leasing plans for developer Apsys in Poland and France, acting for Ikea on its Megamalls project and developing 1m sq ft of malls across Russia.

The new retail team’s clients also include ING, which previously worked with both Donaldsons and DTZ, and Hammerson, which had a longstanding relationship with Donaldsons.

Chase says that slotting the two firms’ retail teams together has not led to the same number of departures as other takeovers, and that staff turnover is no higher than at any other time.

Referring to the departure of Harvey Gifford, a former Donaldsons partner, to Cushman & Wakefield last month, he said: ‘It is inevitable in a merger of this nature that some people will try to steal the best staff.’

He is optimistic about the new retail team’s future, and believes it will be driven forward by its ‘shared passion for delivering strong retail environments’.