Retail space - Getting it right

Michael Sherlock, Author

The most complex of retail property issues can be reduced to a simple realisation, ‘remember it’s the customer’s needs that have to be catered for’.

Over the years I have been a franchisor, franchisee retailer and shopping centre developer, which has enabled me to see how a deal stacks up on all sides.

Ideally, everyone should be in a win/win position.

In the current ever changing and challenging retail environment both parties have to remember it’s all about the customers. There are my four commandments when dealing with retail space.

1. Access

Access to the centre/store for pedestrians and cars should be obvious, easy and inexpensive.

Anything that makes it difficult for cars and consumers to enter the centre/store should be removed as they will decrease the customer count.

The idea of charging for parking in shopping centres is a difficult balancing act.

Parking should be free or the first 180 minutes free in suburban retail centres and cheaper for CBD shoppers.

It’s OK to stop the park and riders but not at the expense of discouraging shoppers. The other big no no’s are steps in front of access ramps.

2. Exposure

The centre/store and all signs should be well exposed to all passing cars and pedestrians. Potential customers should be able to identify the retail offer at a glance.

Planting of trees and shrubs should be selective to provide shade or ground cover, not hide shops.

The truth is that branding and signage is king. Retail architects must remember the store owner will be there long after they have moved on with their poncy ideas.

3. Tenancy mix

Developers need to group together compatible traders so they can trade off each other and make it easier for shoppers to compare.

I like the Hong Kong idea of having all competitors next to each other where you see the ‘Hardware Streets’ and also having customer-friendly planning like a bakery next to newsagent as they are both early morning traders.

4. Ant trail

Every centre develops its own ant trail where customers naturally walk in and move around a centre. I always found the best spots on the Ant Trail were between the exit to the Supermarket and the entry to the Car Park.

This ant trail has to be designed to eliminate the dead spots where customers don’t naturally walk. Online shopping has created a radically new ant trail and bricks and mortar retailers and centre owners need to respond more creatively.

Getting It Right

If a centre developer can provide these four elements to retailers, they have a chance of attracting shoppers and creating a profitable retail community.

I have opened shops where the environment is right and the store is still trading strongly, never missing its rent for over 30 years.

But when short-sighted developers get it wrong everyone suffers. It may sound basic but getting back to sound fundamentals is the best way to survive in the current economic environment. Bricks and mortar retailing now has to compete with the strongly emerging on line threat.

In the past retailers could compete on quality, service and price. Consumers now have more power to shop and compare on a world wide scale, so the best way for retailers to compete is to improve their service level, look after the existing customer and provide product knowledge, service and human connectivity.

It’s a win/win situation for everyone; franchisors, franchises, retailers and developers/centre owners if they can meet the challenge to attract and keep customers - especially in this new and rapidly changing environment.

Michael Sherlock is the former CEO of Brumby’s Bakery’s. He has currently co-authored the newly released book Jumpshift! (, which has taken the franchise industry by storm.

Jumpshift! has suggestions on how to drive greater profits through a focus on business outcomes.

Contact Michael at:

Phone: 0412 747 111