Keeping towns’ centre stage

In an ever-evolving world where retail has faced many challenges, shopping continues to play a key role amongst other town centre uses vying for consumer attention.  GCW’s managing partners, Duncan Kite, and Simon Morris share their thoughts on a bright future at GCW. 


In the last decade, retail has faced multiple upheavals.  The rise of the internet, social media, desire for experience over consumption, and today jostling for its place alongside the alternative sectors making their presence felt in town centres. And, of course, surviving Covid lockdown closures.


But it’s time to move on and accept there’s always going to be change, and evolution. Change is different in different scenarios with every location having an individual challenge, needing its own story told. Our strengths lie around understanding this, as we know it’s not a one-solution-fits-all.


This is why we see only opportunity for clients, the industry, and for our own business. So much so, we plan to deliver 50% business growth by 2027 through recruiting the best people, while giving back to our industry and communities through ESG initiatives.


In 2018 we pivoted our business, building on our 30-year heritage as a retail agency, broadening our expertise to take advantage of new and emerging sectors.


In a post-pandemic world our offer, with a range of specialist knowledge, is more relevant than ever to the 21st Century town centre: hotels, student living, food & beverage, community services, childcare, retirement living, self-storage, coworking, fitness & wellbeing centres and of course, leisure.  We also have one eye on what’s next: drone-ports, vertical urban farming?


Many of these uses have garnered momentum and become the mainstream, but we have never lost sight of our core expertise in retail, whether for the investor, occupier, or owner. The market remains highly dynamic, making it interesting and exciting to be in, with a myriad of prospects for those invested in it. 


Arguably it’s become more sophisticated than ever, with an even greater need to understand the expectations of consumers as well as the provider offering goods or services. Having an appreciation of both ends of the deal enables us to typically complete more than 600 transactions every year.


We see unique opportunities and we want to capitalise on them for our clients. Curious by nature, we often go at things from a different angle and ask questions.  A lot of them. If a client says they want 60 new shops in the next 18 months, we don’t simply throw opportunities at them. 


We want to know who the customer is? Why do they interact with your brand? Where else does your customer shop? What have your experiences been in this type of location, verses another?  Why are you adopting this particular approach to expansion?


This allows us to build a clear picture, the result might be, ‘we don’t think you need 60 shops; you only need 40, in these locations and here’s why, and you should prioritise these ones first.’ An in depth understanding of our clients is central to offering the service for which we’re renowned. One size really doesn’t fit all.


Going forwards, we expect there to be increasing emphasis on the use of data to help inform us and our clients, in delivering optimal outcomes. 


As a forward-thinking company, GCW are prioritising significant investment where it matters, not least through new IT software. Exploiting data, alongside market leading intelligence and first hand experience from our ‘boots on the ground’ approach, we believe this sets us apart from the rest.


By 2027 we aim to grow by fifty percent by expanding our team and core business areas.


In the last 18 months we have invested in a new central London office and put measures in place to support flexible working, while retaining an office-based culture, a major part of nurturing new recruits, sharing our know-how and actively creating a collaborative and inclusive working environment.


Our aim is to recruit six new team members over the next three years, reflecting our optimism about the future. We believe we offer a dynamic and exciting working environment at every level of experience, but we also want to bring forward a new generation through formal internship placements, and eventually a graduate scheme.


Our collaborative and hands-on approach to working allows us to provide new starters with a comprehensive introduction into this multi-faceted industry and the mentorship our experienced team provides, equips graduates with the rare opportunity to develop across all key areas of our business.


We often talk about being free of silos. Yes, we operate a team structure when it comes to harnessing and developing specialist expertise, but collaboration within GCW is key to our success. We value all opinions and encourage debate.


For investors and custodians of town centre assets, our advice goes way beyond brokerage and leasing, with  place-creation and value enhancement at the heart of our advice. For occupiers, we help build strong, sustainable businesses, reviewing, re-positioning, expanding and consolidating branch networks for well established  and emerging businesses.


Beyond the growth of our team, we are also investing in  the property market’s future through our ESG commitments. These include encouraging impactful community engagement and supporting various initiatives including the student diversity programme, Pathways to Property. Now in its 11th year, it provides students with exposure to the industry in the early stages of tertiary education.


Ultimately, we have tried to take the best attributes from larger firms in the industry, with an emphasis on retaining,  at our core, the personalised service offering you can expect from a bespoke agency.


Our breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm allows us to see prospective opportunities, and to add value in the town centre arena, where others are perhaps more wary of embracing change.