Land Securities’ Brand Empire is a bold venture, but the hard work starts now.
This morning Retail Week revealed that Land Securities has signed up Spanish retailer Cortefiel to be the first partner for its Brand Empire venture, which is designed to bring more overseas retailers to the UK market.
Brand Empire is a really innovative idea and just about the only original idea anyone in the property world has had when it comes to attracting new names into the struggling UK retail property market.
Cortefiel’s international operations are well-established, but the UK is a particularly tough nut to crack for foreign retailers - with property being among the main reasons for that - so tying up with a partner which knows that side of things inside out is a good idea.
Land Securities has brought in some retail expertise in the shape of Sanjay Sharma, who used to run Karen Millen’s international operations, to head the new venture, and insists all deals will be at arms length. If it works, Brand Empire should be good news for other landlords as well as LS, as there’s no way the retailers will prosper if they don’t go into other landlords’ centres too.
The question now is whether it will work, and that will be a challenge that Sharma and his colleagues at Land Securities will be acutely aware of. International retailers have had loads of success in the UK in recent years but for every Zara there’s a Mango, and for every Abercrombie & Fitch there’s been a Talbots.
Cortefiel itself dipped a toe in the UK a few years ago, opening in Debenhams, only for it to subsequently to come out.
Sephora, another likely Brand Empire target, has also struggled here in the past.
The UK is one of the, if not the, most competitive markets in the world, and no matter how strong a brand is in other markets, getting it up and running from scratch here won’t be straightforward.
The key will be getting the brands established on the UK’s very competitive high street, and that remains the parent company’s responsibility under the arrangement with Land Securities.
So while the structure may be innovative, the basics of knowing the UK customer and building the brand will be vital if this brave venture is to blossom.