Mary Portas – predictable and fluffy…

I blogged before that we knew the self-styled Queen of Shops was going to publish her answer to the doom and gloom on Britain’s High Street. Her advice to the Prime Minister was apparently free. It was published this week – by way of a list of 28 groovy ideas to get us all spending our hard-earned wonga at the shops again.

Much of it looks to me to be a bit blindingly obvious. Some is naive – allowing shifts between Use Classes more easily is a recipe for Planning disaster.

But the one that made me smile was number 18, “Encourage a contract of care between landlords and their commercial tenants by promoting the leasing code and supporting the use of lease structures other than upward only rent reviews, especially for small businesses”.

A contact of care? With a pink bow? And chocolates?

There is a serious aspect to what she says – she regurgitates the ‘leasing code’ – which has existed for some time. The Code sets out some basic ‘rules’ and tries, admirably, to suggest best practice. If you are so minded you can download it here.

I mentioned the final interviews I carry out for the RICS here – one of the questions we often ask candidates is their knowledge of ‘the Code’. But the supplementary question is to ask where they have used it. Almost without exception they haven’t (although the ‘correct’ answer is to say you have had regard to it!)

What, in essence, we are supposed to do is offer ‘menu pricing’ – in other words (as an example) you can have upwards and downwards rent reviews if you pay more rent at the start… Not many (none?) go for that one.

There was a time when upwards only rent reviews were seen as a bad thing – but that was in the days of 25 year leases – with reviews every five years. Today the average lease length is currently 7.6 years and even then we often see break clauses. The argument has therefore ‘gone away’.

To that end I would suggest that Ms Portas is somewhat out of touch with what is actually happening in the market. And that is worrying if the PM is listening to her?

3 comments on “Mary Portas – predictable and fluffy…

  1. I didn’t think her report was that bad, Tim. Yes, some of the technical proposals seem idealistic rather than realistic, but her starting point seemed pretty sound: that we’ve spent too much time trying to preserve a high street model which was disappearing long ago. She also suggested a mroe dynamic approach to topwn centre management which looked beyond the rules to what is actually happening to shoppers’ habits in-store and online. One way or another, the current approach to managing town centres – if they’re realy managed at all – isn’t working.

    • Richard – substitute simplistic rather than idealistic and I’m with you! If you are going to prepare an expert witness report you need to be one? The upward only rent review was a cheap jibe five years ago! I was just hoping for something a bit more … er … deep and meaningful? Got fluffy.

  2. Pingback: Retail – where next in 2012? | Tim Garratt's Blog

Leave a Reply