Name: Andrew Shepherd
Title: Founder & Director
Company: AS Retail
Who are AS Retail?
We are now six years old and comprise a team of four people although actively looking to recruit a qualified agency surveyor to assist with our expanding workbook.
We provide specialist advice within the retail and leisure sector to occupiers seeking new sites or disposing of surplus stores, and to landlords, on their high street and shopping centre portfolios UK wide, spanning the core interlinked disciplines of agency, lease advisory and investment functions.
Who do AS Retail currently act for?
On the landlord side, we advise on a number of major clients such as RPMI Railpen, Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), Patrizia, Capreon, Surrey County Council, Runnymede Borough Council and Crest Nicholson alongside a pool of smaller investors.
On the occupational side we are one of the most active agencies with a host of acquiring clients including Cards Direct, BoConcept, Traid, Jetts Fitness, Taco Bell and Gong Cha to name a few.
Recently we have been appointed by the Midlands territory partner for Gloria Jeans Coffees, one of the globe’s leading coffee houses, to advise on their expansion across the East and West Midlands. The brand has some 1000 sites spanning Australia, Asia and North America with their UK roll out now gathering pace.
We are also appointed by Elem Hair to advise them on their aggressive salon roll out which we believe could reach 1,000 locations ultimately. Elem are a classy, best in class, hair and beauty salon with three sites currently open with terms being discussed on a number of new sites for 2021 & 2022 trading.
Recent acquisitions or acquisitions in the pipeline?
We’ve continued our roll out for Gong Cha with stores acquired in Liverpool and Newcastle. Terms are agreed for their first London site in Fitzrovia near Tottenham Court Road, one in Leeds and one in Nottingham with many other cities under consideration.
I acquired BoConcept’s first Welsh store in on the upper mall of The St David’s Centre which is due to open shortly. We also have an acquisition in York about to complete which is located in an out of town location, a first for the UK. We are also keen to secure further sites in locations such as St Albans, Cambridge, Chester and along the M4 corridor.
We advised Electric Gamebox, a brilliant new immersive gaming concept on their first three UK sites in Southbank, at Manchester Arndale and at Lakeside. Hopefully they will now get a sustained period of trading and can look to expand further in the UK to complement their US expansion.
The roll out for Cards Direct has continued despite the lockdowns with new stores opened in Staines, Enfield, Ashford, Horsham and Portsmouth. We have another half-dozen in legal hands or at advanced negotiations to open this year.
On behalf of Jetts Fitness we have acquired studios in Brixton and Farnborough – the Brixton site is pushing the fit out to new highs and we have another three sites progressing plus an active requirement for more clubs in Greater London and South East England.
We’ve also advised our clients Triad, an award-winning charity with a chain of cool boutiques on two new store acquisitions in Lewisham and Walthamstow. We are seeking more sites of around 2,000 – 2,500 sq ft in busy Greater London locations.
Finally, we are assisting a superb South-American Tapas restaurant called Rico Sabor expand their estate. I leased their second restaurant to them in historic Rochester back in 2019 and have terms agreed on two news sites in Kent for 2021 opening with an eye on possibly one or two more in 2022. The concept, cuisine and ambience is really fantastic with the family run chain sourcing the majority of their products locally from Kent.
We are currently leasing some really exciting retail and leisure developments including the new 100,000 sq ft M&S Food and Reel Cinema anchored mixed-use Brightwells Yard in Farnham which will open later this year and are delighted to have been appointed by Runnymede Borough Council as their leasing partner in the leasing of the Everyman anchored Magna Square development in Egham where we have four commercial units to let for early 2022 occupation.
We were also appointed to lease the stunning Tunsgate Quarter in Guildford at the end of last year and have some really exciting lettings progressing – watch this space. There are a few opportunities for premium brands, including independents, to join the line-up.
I’ve also led the landlord negotiations on a couple of landmark lettings in the last year. I leased the 50,000 sq ft former BHS at The Cascades Shopping Centre in Portsmouth to Sports Direct for one of their new elevated store concepts and also a new 12,000 sq ft two-floor trading unit at Lower Precinct Shopping Centre in Coventry to River Island. We have a number of other deals progressing on the back of these lettings but opportunities still for retail and catering occupiers to take space in these evolving locations.
What are the main challenges you face when acquiring new property?
Overall things seem to be getting more complex and convoluted - we as agents need to demonstrate determination, tenacity, reliance, know-how and patience in order to see the process through from site identification to lease completion. Nothing is proving easy, although I’m not sure it ever has been ‘easy’ during my 20 years in industry.
One of the main challenges in the current working environment is adhering to a timetable – with staffing shortages at occupiers, landlords, solicitors and other consultants coupled with remote working, the whole process seems to have slowed right down. Keeping momentum in a transaction is a challenge - it takes some organising and lots of chasing from the agents on both sides of the transaction to make sure everyone is doing what is needed to be done at the right time in order to keep things on track.
Notwithstanding general higher levels of vacancy, there remains the issue of finding suitable sites for our clients. Retail properties come in all different shapes and sizes - some compromise against what is optimum is inevitable in most cases but the level of that compromise is always subject to debate. Finding the combination of the right size and shape, location and cost base / deal terms makes being an acquisition agent a challenge, even when on the face of it there is quite a lot of stock available. People think it’s easy – it isn’t! We have to review a lot of opportunities in order to identify the best options and of course have to “know” your towns.
Despite everything that 2020 has and 2021 continues to throw at us, for well-located and regularly configured units in robust towns it not uncommon to find competitive bidding situations which baffles many occupiers. The facts are that if it’s a good property then other people will want it too and we have to work hard and find a competitive edge in order to secure those sites for our clients.
Favourite occupier and why?
All of the independent, family owned, small or honest retail, leisure and catering chains out there who have had to adapt and evolve over the last 12 months to keep their businesses afloat through these incredibly challenging and uncertain times. There are many fantastic operators out there who will have had some very worrying moments in the last year - we wish them all the best of luck in trading going forward and hope that the projected bounce in sales in the Spring/Summer will be a big one.
What is your favourite building?
After a year of pretty much working from home, home-schooling two primary school age kids (to be fair they were very good on the whole) I have to say…. My office! Or the pub, any pub….
Seriously, I’m very much looking forward to regularly getting back the West End, seeing the AS Retail team in the flesh, meeting up our friends, clients, and peers in the market and sampling the various eateries and drinking establishments around Soho and Mayfair which we all perhaps took for granted.
Email - email@example.com
Tel - 020 7287 2155
Twitter handle - @as_retail