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Helen Franks

Property firm Grosvenor London’s head of commercial leasing tells Ana Santi how she manages her portfolio of streets.

You’re responsible for a portfolio of London streets comprising Elizabeth Street, Motcomb Street, Pimlico Road and Mount Street. Is the leasing strategy the same for all four?

We create premium villages with unique personalities that suit a location. What people want on Mount Street can be different to Elizabeth Street. Mount Street has become more of a fashion  destination. We cater for the shoppers while providing amenities for those who live and work on Mount Street.

What streets in particular are proving a success?

Mount Street continues to perform well as a result of our leasing strategy to attract high-end brands to open their first UK store. We recently had 22 bids on a retail unit on Pimlico Road that would previously have been considered an ‘off pitch’ unit.

What plans do you have in the pipeline for the portfolio?

Carlos Place [in Mayfair] is a new retail location for us, where we are converting former office buildings to retail use to provide tenants with a ‘maison concept’ store similar to those on Avenue Montaigne in Paris. We are looking at the mix of retail on Duke Street, where we want to evolve the offer to include edgier and more contemporary fashion and accessories brands.

Is footfall up or down in these streets?

Footfall is increasing, particularly on Mount Street, where we’ve improved the public realm by widening the pavements and minimising street furniture and are creatingan improved retail destination through the introduction of food outlets and an interesting mix of retailers.

A key problem facing fashion retailers is high rents. How does Grosvenor help its tenants?

We recognise that the retail environment is changing with the advent of online shopping and strive to support our retailers in the creation of a richer and more rewarding shopping experience that isn’t replicable online. We benefit from being an established landlord that actively manages the areas of central London that we own. Our long-term view means we are able to assist our more vulnerable tenants when necessary.

We are able to support the expansion of smaller brands, whether that’s by looking to accommodate them in a bigger unit or by helping them find a second unit on another street. We are always considering the impact that other retailers may have on existing tenants. For example, we requested that Waitrose on Motcomb Street did not sell newspapers so they weren’t in conflict with the street’s newsagents.

Have Grosvenor’s rates gone up or down?

They’ve gradually been increasing as a result of a lack of supply in central London.

What international shopping streets do you admire?

Paris has a wealth of enviable shopping locations such as the glamorous shops on the Rue Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne. Closer to home, Marylebone High Street is a wonderful shopping street.

If you could have any fashion tenant on one of your streets, who would it be?

My top tenant would have to be Hermès, whose brand heritage and quality would be an ideal match for Mount Street. However, I would love to find space for an independent like Matches in Belgravia.

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