Sorbon Estates, the commercial arm of the Shanly Group, has opened up about its long-term strategy for Marlow and how it protects and supports the town’s retail offer against the headwinds that have impacted other towns and high streets throughout Britain.
In an event hosted at The Butcher’s Tap, Marlow on Friday 13th of September, attended by a range of local and national retailers such as The White Company and The Foschini Group, alongside local restaurateur, BBC presenter and Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, Sorbon Estates revealed how it curates a unique and diverse tenant mix in the town, retaining its character and promoting a thriving environment for shoppers in contrast to the beleaguered High Streets of other towns up and down the UK.
The landlord is the largest property owner in Marlow with its retail portfolio across High Street and Spittal Street. In the long-term interests of the town, Sorbon Estates is working with agents and retailers to create an attractive range of national and independent retailers through a selective approach that is led by use and overall tenant mix rather than just rental income.
Using this approach, Sorbon Estates has secured several new lettings and lease renewals in the last eighteen months, including to local businesses: Brookes Clothing Company, Shop at Stocks and Marlow Green and to national retailers The White Company, Haringtons, Phase Eight, and Arlo & Jacob.
A core part of the strategy is to be flexible and adaptable in the face of significant structural changes in the retail sector. To this end, Sorbon Estates maintains an active portfolio of interesting and exciting pop-up operators in the town and has now worked with several start-up and established retailers to create a range of pop-up shops that appeal to Marlow’s broad customer base. This has included Jam Industries, the clothing brand from Made in Chelsea alumnus Andy Jordan; The Zero Option, an alcohol-free retailer; Fourstate, a local zero-waste concept; Rosie Cheeks, a vintage-inspired children’s clothing brand; and Winser London a luxury women’s fashion store that has gone on to sign a long-term lease in Marlow.
Finally, Sorbon Estates is looking to embrace the town’s increasing reputation as a destination for food; restaurants such as The Ivy and celebrity chefs such as Tom Kerridge and Atul Kochhar have established flagship restaurants in Marlow, with Kerridge hosting the annual Pub in the Park event in Higginson Park. By working with local food producers, Sorbon Estates is looking to bring in artisan bakers, cheesemongers and fishmongers.
“Our focus is entirely on creating a diverse, innovative and exciting mix of retailers that will continue to attract both customers and brands who want to be a part of this unique story,” said Tamra Booth, Managing Director of Sorbon Estates. “It is no secret that we are in a challenging environment, but we truly believe in broadening Marlow’s currently healthy town centre with differentiation being the key to this. For us, this means a healthy combination of independents and nationals.
“People want shopping experiences that can’t be delivered online and that is why we are determined to ensure Marlow remains an attractive destination for visitors and a thriving community for local residents, not just now but in years to come. For this reason, we do not install the first tenant that comes along, and we often use the opportunity of a vacant unit to work with a new concept that really brings something new to Marlow and that might not otherwise have the chance to trial physical retail.”
Tom Kerridge said: “Marlow is one of the most incredibly friendly and community spirited towns you could come across. It is full of individuals that come together to create one of the most attractive places to live in the UK. However, to keep it this way it is essential to hold a long-term view. The success of our businesses is down to my team’s relationships with the community, and the community’s support of my teams.
Sorbon Estates’s strategy looks to leverage this cohesion by working with local and national businesses, both in Marlow and new to Marlow, as well as other stakeholders for the overall benefit of the town. A good mix of retail and dining gives a town is worth more than the sum of its parts, and that is clearly what Sorbon Estates understands with its strategy for Marlow.”
Sorbon Estates is partnered with the British Independent Retail Association to assist all independent retailers within its portfolio.