Retail Shopping Centre Leasing Strategies that Work

When it comes to leasing a retail shopping centre, the mechanism of leasing can be quite specific and specialised.  That is why some leasing experts only specialise in retail property.  It is a very special part of the property market requiring good market knowledge and excellent tenant contact.

A shopping centre or a retail property is a vibrant business environment and it needs to be understood for the best leasing results to be obtained.  To a great degree, the success of the tenants will be generated from property performance, tenant mix, customer interaction, and the landlords support.  There are many ways that these issues need to evolve if the retail property is to succeed for the long term.

Here are some tenant mix strategies to apply to a retail shopping centre to assist the leasing process and the overall tenancy mix.

  1. The tenants that are chosen for the property should be the tenants that satisfy the demands of the local community and customers.  Tenants that are well matched to the local demographic will attract more customers to the property over time.  Tenants of this type should be integrated into the overall tenancy mix at strategic places and within specific retail clusters.  Clusters of tenants generate more sales in the property.  A cluster is a specific retail tenant mix strategy.
  2. Get to know the franchise groups in the local area that may require premises in your property at any future time.  There will also be other franchise groups that are not yet located in your region or town.  Connect with all the franchise groups that have a reasonable retail offering and therefore potentially an attraction to your customer base.  Understand what these franchise groups require of a property, and population demographic.  They will also have certain terms and conditions that relate to their lease occupancy and property selection.  In many cases they will share that information with leasing professionals in preparation for identifying the right property.  Get to know the franchise groups.
  3. Monitor the activity of all competing retail properties locally.  That will include the rental profiles, vacancy activities, and lease occupancy.  Selectively approaching the tenants within these properties will help you with market intelligence and leasing strategies.
  4. Identify any new property developments that are soon to be released on the market.  They are likely to shift the balance of available space and rental across the region.  They will also try to entice tenant movement through attractive incentives.  That can then make any older properties in the area less attractive to some tenants.  The only way to combat this problem is through competitive rentals, and exceptional property performance.  Retail tenants will always be attracted to properties that integrate well into their customer base.  Make sure your retail property does exactly this.
  5. Your existing tenancy mix will contain tenants that are more or less attractive to the future of the property.  You will require a tenancy retention program to define the differences between those tenants.  Over time the retention program can remove difficult tenants, reposition better tenants, and reduce your vacancy profile.  The tenant retention program is a significant business tool and point of difference for many retail leasing experts.

So all of these things will help you with the necessary momentum to improve your leasing activity; over time you can lift your tenancy outcomes.  Respect the differences in retail property leasing, and understand the specialised nature of lease negotiation.  Many commercial property agents have made a significant and very rewarding career from retail property.  You can too.

Leasing Factors in Retail Property Today

When you lease a retail property or promote a vacancy to be leased, there is a fair bit of information to be sourced and set as part of the vacancy marketing effort.  When you are fully informed and prepared, the retail leasing situation is much easier and more direct.

A retail tenant will ask lots of questions.  They have a business to run and they need to know that the property can support their intended operations, marketing efforts, and trade.

The landlord that owns the retail property will have a lot to do with the overall success of the tenant mix and the levels of sales.  Inexperienced retail landlords can destroy a tenant mix and retail property performance if they do not devote the correct focus on balancing key relationships.

Owning a retail property is a special process.  The fine balance between the tenants, customers, property manager, and landlord should be protected and encouraged.

Some of the critical leasing factors in a retail property or shopping centre will include:

  1. Levels of rental to be charged should be fair and reasonable in keeping with the existing and prevailing market rents.   Far too many landlords set rent based on their need to finance the property or boost the property value.  An aggressive rent can ‘kill’ the tenant mix faster than you would expect.
  2. Types of rental will change from property to property but will include gross rent, net rent, and incentives.   All of these rent issues require decisions based on existing market trends.  Rental targets for the property should be set in the business plan for the property and be reviewed annually.
  3. Tenancy space details will include area of the premises and configuration.   Be careful in setting rent with narrow, long, and deep premises.  When it comes to retail rental, it is the ‘frontage’ of the premises that sets the rent and sustains the customer interest.
  4. Permitted use for the premises will be set based on the requirements of occupancy and the prevailing tenant mix.  Decide what types of tenants you really want for the vacant premises.  How will they balance the offering of adjacent and nearby tenants?
  5. Existing tenant mix details should be reviewed.  In doing that you can ascertain just what vacancies are coming up and how they will impact the zone of the property.
  6. Supply and demand for retail space will change in the local area during the year.  The impact of new property developments will also reflect in your market rental.  Keep in contact with the local property development office to understand the new developments that may be coming up.
  7. Car park information will include numbers of car parks and the access methods for customers and tenants.  When it comes to retail property performance, the function of the car park will be important for the future levels of customer interaction and trade.  In many respects, car parking today needs to be accessible, friendly, and secure.  Customers will soon turn away from a property if car parking is too difficult.
  8. Customer demographics and levels of trade will change throughout the year.  Ensure that you understand the typical customer that comes to the property and the reasons why they do so.  Those factors are likely to change throughout the year.
  9. Signage rules and regulations will apply to particular tenancies.  Any new tenant to a property should be suitably briefed on the signage policies that apply to shop presentation.
  10. Landlord works and property improvements will be important issues to the incoming tenant.  Exactly what will be provided to the tenant as part of the new tenancy lease?  Will the lease for the tenant require special modification and allowances for unique tenancy improvements?  What should happen at the end of the lease term with regard to premises make good?
  11. Services and amenities to the property and to the tenancies will be important.  All the expected facilities services and amenities should be well maintained and up to date.  A property that is neglected when it comes to the maintenance of these issues will soon become redundant from the tenancy perspective.
  12. Guarantors and the security deposit requirements will be parts of the negotiation process for the new lease.  Decisions will need to be made regards the types of guarantees required and the amount of security deposit.  These factors may vary depending on the tenant that you secure for the premises.
  13. Fit out design and specifications will be important when a tenant is identified for the premises.  Certain rules and regulations will be required to control the tenant during the fitout construction phase.
  14. Outgoings and occupancy charges will have an impact on the tenant’s ability to trade.  Review competing properties in the surrounding area to understand exactly the types of outgoings that are acceptable in the prevailing market conditions.  Your property should be competitively positioned and not exceeding those charges in other properties.
  15. Standard lease terms and conditions will vary from property to property and landlord to landlord.  Those lease terms and conditions should be set prior to the premises being marketed.  The landlord should consult with their solicitor to ensure that a good standard document is ready and available for use when the tenant is located.  In most cases, the standard lease document will be modified for the existing tenancy and the requirements of occupancy.  If you locate the franchise tenant for the property, it is likely that they will bring their standard lease to the negotiation.  If that is the case, the landlord for the property will require legal assistance to shape the franchise tenant lease into something that works for the landlord and the property investment.
  16. Property as built drawings will be very handy when it comes to tenancy negotiation and tenancy design.  The as built drawings would normally be available through the property management office and or the landlord.  The drawings will be required to help the tenant to understand tenancy design and the availability of mechanical plant and hydraulic services.

So the leasing of a retail property or premises within in a retail shopping centre will be quite a specific task requiring detailed information.  When you prepare for the process of retail property leasing, negotiations can run more effectively and positively.

Shopping Centre Managers – Retail Property Leasing Specialisation

woman shopping for pears in supermarket
Retail shop leasing requires special knowledge and experience.

When you work in commercial real estate, you will see those ‘retail specialists’ in the local area that focus within the retail property market.  Those retail people are very specialized given that their property type is quite specific and heavily geared to the local demographic.

In simple terms, a retail leasing specialist or property manager should help retail tenants improve their business and on that basis improve property occupation.  When all of this occurs correctly, the prevailing market rental for the property will be underpinned and potentially grow.  Over time this will also help the landlord for the property achieve a better price if and when the property comes up for sale.

So there is a significant link between tenant selection, retail trade, property leasing, and property performance.  For this very reason those of us in the industry that understand retail property do so at a very high level and can talk across a large variety of strategies that relate to retail sales, leasing, and shopping centre management.  The clients that we work for and especially those that own any complex retail property will only work use the best retail property people in the industry.

There are many things that should be considered and consolidated into your retail experience and knowledge base.

  1. Market rentals will change from property type to property type.  They will also change by location within the property.  The positioning of a tenancy inside a retail premises will dictate the levels of rental, as will the size of the premises.  There is no fixed and firm equation that can be provided to help you here, except the process of gaining market awareness and information from comparable properties.  Over time you will understand what makes a property location different than others.  You will also understand the priorities of tenancy location that will boost the rental in one particular spot or one particular property.
  2. Different businesses can pay and absorb different levels of rental as part of property occupation.  As a case in point, you will find that one tenancy type can pay more rental than another tenancy type.  For example you could compare a shoe repair type tenancy to a food type tenancy.  The levels of rental from each will be completely different for the same shop location, given that they will have separate levels of turnover relative to their business type.  If the rent is too high for the business type, they will simply disappear as a tenant.
  3. Different retail leases and different lease strategies will occur all the time.  You become a strategist when it comes to utilising rental incentives, gross rent, net rent, lease terms, rent reviews, and option strategies.  All of these are negotiated with due regard to the plans of the property owner, the age of the property, the tenant, and the demographics of the shopper.
  4. When it comes to retail property, the success of the tenancy mix will largely be driven by the demographics of the area.  Stay on top of the changes to the local property demographics and ensure that the property matches the current and future needs of the local community.  That being said, you really do need to know exactly who your shopper is and why they visit the property.  You also need to know what they require and when they need it.
  5. Tenant enquiry for new premises will change from time to time based on the regional and local business sentiment.  For this very reason, you should be staying very close to the retail businesses and franchise groups.  All of those people in your database should be contacted regularly to identify any changes in leasing needs or opportunities.
  6. Watch the activities of any competing retail properties in your area.  That will include the tenancy mix, expansion and contraction factors, refurbishment, and relocation challenges.  These trends and activities will give you some leverage in leasing and property performance.

Retail property people are specialists in their property craft.  Their knowledge and expertise will be sought after when it comes to the larger shopping centers and the bigger retail leasing needs.  Franchise groups and anchor tenants will also seek the assistance of retail property specialists.

Lease Proposals in Retail Property Today

fruit and flower stand in a retail shopping centre
Lease proposals and letters of offer to lease, should be unique to the tenant type and the shopping center.

With commercial premises, the leasing process should involve ‘Agreements to Lease’ or ‘Letters of Offer’ between the tenant and the landlord. This enables you to negotiate the final terms and conditions of the lease quite effectively.

When the final ‘Agreement to Lease’ has been achieved between the parties, then that document can be sent to the landlord’s solicitor to prepare the final and original lease documentation. The whole process is clean and straightforward.

It is always desirable to let the landlord solicitor prepare the lease and arrange for the signature of both parties. Invariably solicitors come across smaller matters of dispute which still need to be resolved between the landlord and the tenant. The solicitors are the best ones to do that for the landlord.

Whilst all premises are unique and special, the following is a checklist around which the ‘Agreement to Lease’ could be structured. Simply then add other elements special to the property as appropriate.

  1. The name of the landlord together with contact detail
  2. The name of the tenant together with contact detail
  3. Description of the premises including the reference to any plans or drawings
  4. The area of the premises
  5. The term of lease
  6. The lease commencement date and the end date
  7. Option for a further term if applicable and how that option should be exercised with due regard to timeframes prior to lease expiry
  8. Details of contributions to outgoings expected from the tenant
  9. Details of recoverable outgoings that are normally considered as every day consumables in the premises and how they are to be recovered from the tenant. This would be cleaning, electricity, communications, and energy.
  10. Permitted use of the premises
  11. Details of any incentive to be provided by the landlord
  12. Details of the make good expected from the tenant at the end of the lease term
  13. Car parking detail
  14. Signage detail and approvals
  15. Air-conditioning supply and hours of operation
  16. Access details to the premises including a statement of how the tenant will access the premises at different times
  17. Details of works to be undertaken by the landlord prior to occupancy by the tenant
  18. Details of approval processes that need to be observed by the tenant in any fit-out works
  19. Rent review structure and frequency
  20. Details of the initial starting rental
  21. Details of the guarantees expected to be provided by the tenant as part of the agreement to occupancy
  22. Insurance obligations of the tenant
  23. Confidentiality agreement between the parties
  24. Any other obligations of the tenant to be undertaken during the lease term
  25. Any other obligations of the landlord to be undertaken during the lease term
  26. Special terms and conditions that need to be incorporated into the lease document by the solicitor prior to the signature an agreement of the parties
  27. Obligations of the lease with regard to legislation current in your location or the property type.

This list should not be regarded as finite given that every property is unique and special when it comes to lease negotiations. The list will however give you the main things to look for in the first instance of lease negotiation, and to which you can add the other special terms and conditions of the negotiation in the ‘Agreement to Lease’.

Any lease or tenancy negotiation should include evidence of the condition of the current premises before they are handed to the tenant. At the end of the lease term, you will then know to what condition you expect the premises to be returned to. ‘Agreements to Lease’ are standard procedures used by experienced landlords and real estate brokers.

When you have structured a document that works well for you in your location with your property types, it pays to create a number of templates which simplify the task of leasing and negotiating. Generally speaking, the ‘Agreement to Lease’ is not legally binding but it will facilitate the negotiation and move you towards the creation of a real lease where the solicitor takes over.