I’m now about halfway through my tenure as Revo president and what a time to be at the beating heart of the retail property industry.
Being at the centre of the #repocalypse, as my 12-year-old son has christened our current travails, has certainly given me the opportunity to speak to and hear from a wider selection of stakeholders across the industry than in my previous 26 years combined.
The retail industry, for so long taken for granted, is front-page news and rarely off the airwaves. People from the heart of government downwards (or should it be upwards?) recognise the problem and are desperate for answers.
While the handing out of the government’s Future High Street Fund is going to leave a lot of local communities disappointed – over 300 applied – the process has provided a focus for stakeholders to come together to start to think about what they want their places to be in future, as we migrate away from the retail mono-cultures that we created in our town centres in the post-war period.
“The difficulties we are going through are at least leading to frank and honest conversation about finding a better way forward”
Indeed, it is fair to say that such is the groundswell of activism to try to address the structural challenges we all face, I pretty much could have attended an event a day to debate the challenges confronting the ‘high street’ and the search for solutions.
Due to the demands of the day job, I haven’t quite managed this, but I have gone out of my way to engage with retailers and their property teams directly. This has, for example, involved speaking at Retail Week Live, debating the president of the Property Managers Association at his own conference and giving a frank ‘Chatham House Rules’ talk to the Property Directors’ Dining Club.
Get around the table
It’s because of these interactions that I am comfortable to disagree with Roger Wade’s comments at the World Retail Congress that “there has never been a worse state [in] the relationship between tenants and landlords”.
While I wholeheartedly endorse his comments about “the archaic concept of business rates” and of course the utter inequity of CVAs as a process, the very difficulties we are going through are at least leading to frank and honest conversation about finding a better way forward.
“I bear no personal animosity towards the hard-pressed property teams fighting for their business’ survival”
I bear no personal animosity towards the hard-pressed property teams fighting for their business’ survival, sometimes hampered by disinterested private equity owners, an absentee proprietor or worse.
Roger Wade is spot on in the need for a “root-and-branch review” and I hope I have played a small part in starting this dialogue between owners and occupiers so far. The next stage is to convene the Revo CEO Summit at our conference in Liverpool in September, to bring industry leaders around a table to further this debate.
I’ll go first: “Occupiers can have upward and downward rent reviews.”
What are you going to bring to the table? Genuinely, please get in touch.