Large Retailers Compete For City Centre Premises
14 September 2017 – El País
Retailers that typically occupy out-of-town stores only, brands such Ikea, Decathlon, Media Markt, Leroy Merlin and Kiabi have done an about turn with their strategies. Now, they want to take their products to the heart of cities to reach clients who are not visiting them on the outskirts. They are occupying the few large retail premises that are available close to the major commercial thoroughfares of Madrid and Barcelona. They are not pushing up the rental prices of these properties yet; in fact, they are investing between €1 million and €5 million on renovation work. But they will.
The main retail areas in the centre of Madrid and Barcelona have new tenants. The so-called out-of-town retailers, which, until recently, could only be found in retail parks on the outskirts are undertaking a new urban strategy. They want to approach a new group of customers, those who want to avoid using their cars and it wants to lock them in. This week, Decathlon announced that it will open three stores in the heart of Madrid, where Leroy Merlin will also set up shop in 2018, following in the wake of Ikea (which inaugurated its store on c/Serrano in May), Kiabi (which has just done the same in Barcelona on Paseo de Gracia) and Media Markt, the first to arrive in the centre of both cities (as well as in Valencia).
The trend started two years ago in major European cities and comes in response to a move by the population towards the centre and to the fact that e-commerce is requiring companies to respond rapidly to their clients. That means being close to them, explains Robert Travers, Director at the real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield (…).
The strategy of these chains is to open stores on the main commercial thoroughfares of large cities in smaller spaces than those they occupy in the out-of-town retail parks, but of considerable dimensions given that they are in the centre. “They are not looking for prime locations, but rather premises very nearby, because they cannot afford the rents of operators such as Zara, Mango and H&M. Instead they pay around 30% less because their margins are smaller”, says Travers. They need streets with high footfall and premises measuring at least 1,000 m2 or 2,000 m2, with open-plan floors; such features are very few and far between in the best shopping areas.
For the time being, the arrival of these brands has not had any impact on rental prices, given that, according to Sergio Fernandes, the Director of Retail at the consultancy firm JLL, the availability of these kinds of properties on the main commercial thoroughfares is very limited and the operators that demand them are also very few. “Only the leaders of each sector are brave enough to make the move. For the time being, we are seeing only six or seven brands”, he says. Examples include Aki, Bricor, Verdecora, Sport Zone and Kiwoko Mundo Animal. Nevertheless, “they are managing to make use of certain properties that would otherwise go unoccupied as they are not in the right locations for the fashion brands”, says David Barragán, Director of Retail at the real estate firm Aguirre Newman (…).
The search is not easy, according to estate agents and retail chains (…). The negotiations are intense and prolonged because the premises need renovating and the brands demand grace periods whilst the construction work takes place, which tenants typically pay. Rental contracts are being signed for periods of between seven and 20 years.
But it is worth it. The pilot store that the Swedish chain Ikea has opened in Madrid is performing better than expected. In fact, some of the new formulas that it offers have already been extended to its other stores (customisation of fabrics, dressers and doors). Nevertheless, Ikea is still assessing whether or not to open more central stores with this format, which combines sales and entertainment (…).
Original story: El País (by Claudio Álvarez)
Translation: Carmel Drake