Cooke & Arkwright’s Retail Agency has been named the ‘Most Active Retail Agent in Wales 2011′ by the Estates Gazette in its annual deals competition. The Retail team, headed by Director Huw Thomas, is a leading regional advisor on high street and out of town retail properties for institutional pension funds, property companies, national and regional retailers, private landlords, family trusts and a number of local authorities.
Mr Thomas said that the award was a welcome recognition for all the hard work and effort his team had put in on behalf of clients in 2011, in what remains a very tough climate. ‘In the majority of our towns and cities, an oversupply of retail floorspace remains and tenants, primarily, are in the driving seat when negotiating new lease terms and incentives. The majority of landlords suffer significant financial pain once a property has been empty for more than three months, given that 100% of the business rates then fall due. The artificially high level of today’s business rates is an undoubted contributory and significant factor in rental values falling, because tenants naturally consider the total occupational cost of occupying a property, rather than focusing on rent, rates and repairs in isolation.”
Mr Thomas said that the face of the high street was constantly adapting in response to both economic and local pressures. “Many issues are having an impact on the high street, including the availability and cost of town-centre parking, out of town retail developments and internet shopping, which alone is having a huge effect, with Game being one of the latest casualties,” he said. “I don’t believe we are seeing the demise of the high street; however, we may see more individuality and less replication emerging as the high street continues to evolve, which some may view as a good thing. I can’t see the large national retailers keeping as many large stores on the high street in future and we may see more locally based businesses, as well as restaurants, coffee shops, food stores and smaller clothes shops emerging. Some products are well suited to the internet, while others are less so. There is a social element to shopping that people will probably always want to experience. Who knows quite how it will look in future – who could have predicted ten years ago that discount stores, mobile phone retailers and coffee shops would dominate now?”
In a climate where very little if any retail development is being brought forward, Mr Thomas said that his team has been providing advice to Caerphilly County Borough Council on an ambitious £24m project to regenerate the retail offering in Bargoed town centre. This is set to commence after the Development Agreement between Simons Group and the Council was exchanged and forward funding secured from property investment management fund, Rockspring.
Cooke & Arkwright’s Investment and Retail Agencies have provided advice to the Council throughout the six year-plus process to draw up plans, market the development site and identify a preferred developer. The development comprises a 56,000 sq ft anchor store pre-let to Wm Morrisons Supermarkets and seven mixed-use retail units of 20,500 sq ft together with a 400 space car park. Caerphilly County Borough Council has taken the headlease on the retail units, which are to be let jointly by Cooke & Arkwright.
Mr Thomas said that there had already been expressions of interest in the units. “That the whole scheme is lifting off against a backdrop of unprecedented economic uncertainty is a remarkable achievement for all concerned,” he commented.
The scheme is scheduled for completion in 2013 and the site also has outline planning permission for a second phase, centred on a multiplex cinema.”
I Metcalfe & Co is joint letting agent.