the man behind the Lexicon Bracknell & Kings Mall

Bracknell’s lexicon is one of your business assets. How has this program worked since it opened at the end of 2017?

The Lexicon is performing well despite the tough headwinds in retail, helping Bracknell drop from 255th to 26th in the nation’s retailer rankings in less than three years.

Schroders integrates downtown Bracknell in its entirety, allowing us to provide a safe, traffic-free public domain hub and various office / residential developments, which work well with the retail offering.

We recently launched the second phase with the renovation of the Princess Square shopping center and started work on The Deck, which will be a regionally dominant leisure extension. Organizing the right mix of retail, entertainment, foodservice, and community businesses has been essential in creating a destination with a bright future.

Notably, all retailer CVAs have had Bracknell in the top category, meaning rental terms have not been affected, proving Bracknell is a modern, responsive retail asset with affordable rents. Likewise, a number of our key tenants reported stellar trade over Christmas 2019, with targeting in a number of cases.

Open glossary
The Lexicon in Bracknell on opening day.

What are the other well-known business assets of Schroder Real Estate Fund?

Our long term strategy is to underweight retail, but where we have retail we believe in the business plan and it is either a destination or a commodity. .

Schroder UK Real Estate Fund (SREF) thus owns Mermaid Quay in Cardiff, which the fund has held for 20 years. It is currently undergoing a rejuvenation with the addition of a cinema, new bars / restaurants, a parking lot extension and a new public domain.

Meanwhile, Lemon Quay in Truro is successfully bridging the gap between a downtown high street asset and the floor plates of modern retail warehouses, with designated parking. Lemon Quay has arguably moved Truro’s main retail business from one side of town to the other.

Mermaid dock.

What gap in the UK retail market is SREF working to fill?

SREF keeps assets where we believe we can execute a business plan to improve the asset and generate value. They are either dominant retail programs in nature or they are practical – addressing a demonstrable need, and both provide a positive experience for consumers.

SREF has sold commercial assets for which our business plans have been completed, which allows us to focus our strategy on investing in other assets – to make them sustainable, either through renovations or through resizing. tenants for their modern business platforms.

Understanding a retailer’s future needs is of the utmost importance – we’ve evolved into collaborations with retailers and blurred the lines between traditional owner / tenant relationships, ultimately benefiting both parties in the process.

An example of this is our successful sale of Kings Mall in Hammersmith, London. After revitalizing the center through the implementation of our business plan, it is normal that our sale of this asset to Ingka Centers will now allow it to become Ikea’s first new urban destination.

How is SREF’s business model different from its main competitors?

SREF has the ability to scale quickly – depending on the macro investment environment – through short reporting lines and dedicated retail sector specialists, which has made SREF a dynamic institutional fund. with both long-term regeneration platforms and shorter-term value-added assets. We pride ourselves on understanding why retailers are trading well in certain places and then helping them grow further through physical real estate.

“Understanding the future needs of a retailer is of the utmost importance”

How does SREF address some of the challenges facing shopping center projects?

We are repositioning the centers by investing in renovation work. This includes the introduction of more recreational uses, including gymnasiums, cinemas, soft games, nurseries, and restaurants.

We are also attracting larger users of space through unit mergers and parking concessions for various times of the day. Implementing dynamic on-site events and marketing strategies have been very important in maintaining attendance and persuading larger watersheds to visit our centers.

What do you think is the biggest risk for the retail industry given the current climate?

I think the biggest risk is inactivity to adapt to buying trends. Consumer habits have changed and while I think there is still an essential place for the physical store, a store has to deliver an experience. Retailers must reduce their exposure where stores are not and owners must adapt their programs to accommodate changing requirements.

Describe your role and responsibilities.

I help lead the retail strategy and its implementation across Schroders UK funds, both in terms of existing wealth and future transactional opportunities.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background beforehand.

Prior to joining Schroders in 2013, I was a retail investment agent acting on behalf of similar institutional investors. However, prior to that I was a rental advisory agent acting for both retailers and owners. This exposure to both sides has given me invaluable insight into the push and pull factors for owners and retailers. Understanding the length and breadth of what each party can ultimately accept strengthens relationships and reduces wasted time.

What first brought you to retail?

“Even though I think there is always an essential place for the physical store, a store must offer an experience”

I have had work experience in various agencies across all industries and have found retail to be the most interesting, diverse and ultimately the most specialized industry. I wouldn’t put myself in a shopaholic category but I have always enjoyed good shopping experiences. Getting the chance to help change the retail landscape and see the positive impact on the people who live and work there is incredibly rewarding.

What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Encourage others to join you on a retail journey that you have the capacity to envision but may take longer to understand. There’s not much a CGI can accomplish – the proof is in delivering the customer experience. Bracknell is a key example of a dated and struggling 1960s downtown that has been transformed into a modern destination that people across the region enjoy and are proud of. As a contaminated site, many rejected its ability to change.

And the most rewarding?

Working on an asset from start to finish is worth it. An initial idea thrown around a meeting room can turn into something special that can be experienced by countless other people. Witnessing these transformations is incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in retail?

Travel and learn about retail – it’s best to see where it works well and where it doesn’t and then understand why. Always think outside the box and never immediately dismiss an unconventional idea. There are so many facets to the retail environment that you are sure to find an area that piques your interest.

One last word ?

Retail continues to grab the headlines negatively and, in some cases, for good reason. However, there is still room to be optimistic about the future of retail. New exciting experiences will emerge and I hope to be a part of some of them.

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About Mary Moser

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