Retailers have spoken out at what they feel are unfair practices by property agents and the multiples when it comes to purchasing sites.
Norfolk retailer Nigel Dowdney said there was a direct line between agents and the multiples that prevented independent retailers from getting a look in. “I’ve been trying to expand my business for some time, but finding a suitable site is difficult, especially given that a lot of sites are snapped up by the multiples before they even hit the market,” said Nigel.
“I experienced this when I was contemplating selling one of my stores some time ago and the agent said that any business with a turnover of more than £25,000 a week is referred automatically to Sainsbury’s or Tesco, who will offer to pay the vendor’s fees. The site wouldn’t appear on the market. Even if it did, another independent retailer looking to buy can’t compete with that.”
Kay Patel, who runs four Best-One stores in Stratford, North London, has experienced similar frustrations. “I’m constantly on the lookout for new sites, but they’re snapped up before they even seem to hit the market,” he said. “I’ve seen empty properties that are suitable for a convenience store suddenly appear as a multiple without ever having a ‘to let’ or ‘for sale’ sign on them.”
Steve Rodell, head of convenience at Christie & Co, said agents would always encourage vendors to put a property on the open market first, rather than taking them straight to one client. “We’ll always advise a vendor to go as wide as they can in order to get the best price, but there are situations where they will insist on us talking to our hotlist of applicants, which includes both multiples and independents,” he said. “If a retailer feels they are not getting a fair chance we would advise them to contact a reputable property agent, detail exactly what they are looking for and give feedback on sites visited so that they will become reliable potential buyers.”
“As an independent, you know you are third in line for good sites. The multiples get offered them first, then the symbols, and then us. If you want to change the situation you have to sign a formal agreement with the agents, which means upfront fees.”
Malcolms Stores, Coventry
“There’s so much competition from the multiples who always get the jump on us for the best sites. There are virtually no good sites left in the city centre.”
“Competition for sites is a lot tougher now that the multiples are interested in the convenience sector. You need to build a relationship with an agent so that you can find out about potential sites earlier.”
North East Convenience Stores