Can Costa compete
February 26, 2012
Independents 1 High Street Chains 0
October 27, 2012

I have rented offices before with previous businesses and always found the landlords bearable, not great but bearable. I expected landlords of retail space to be similar, its fair to say most landlords are not purely retail but have a mixed portfolio of office and retail. Landlords are a breed unto themsleves, they dont operate in our time frames for one. Weeks can go by before they answer an email or phone call, even when you are making an enquiry about a vacant property, they operate in months and years not days and weeks. Be prepared to be either patient or very persistent, I would opt for the persistent, verging on the annoying if you want to get anywhere.

If you get as far as legal documents with a landlord prepare yourself for a waste land of legal documentation. One of our landlords produced an 80 page contract, yes 80 pages for us to sign. There is a new breed of landlords out there but they are still hard to find, one of these new breeds gave us a 2 page set of legals. Proving it can be done with a lot less legalease and hassle.

Why are they slow and why do they surround themselves with legal documents, the simple answer is they are old school and old money. Most landlords have been in the business for hundreds of years and the culture hasn’t changed since they were shooting pesants and shouting “get off my land”. It’s a sector that is still in the dark ages, technology hasn’t even had an impact yet.

The thing we have just learnt about them is they also don’t care about their tenants, notice they never refer to them as customers or clients they are always just tenants. We have two different landlords in Birmingham and both have done exactly the same thing to us, they have both allowed competitors to move in right next door. Not a few shops down but right next door doing exactly the same thing.

This approach by these landlords makes it very clear they are just interested in money and not even log term money but rent that is paid in the here and now. If you think about this approach it is fundamentally flawed, most locations don’t have the footfall to support direct competitors side by side so that means at some point in the future one of the two parties is going to go under and close that location. Either way the landlord ends up with a negative reputation and another empty shop, after a rent free period is probably less than 12-months rent.

Now I am not scared of competition but it doesn’t make much sense for independents to compete right on each others doorsteps. I am pretty confident we will come out on top in both our locations because we will focus on delivering an amazing product with amazing service.

Can you do anything to prevent this happening to your retail outlet, well you can certainly try. If your landlord owns the surrounding retail space you could ask for a non-compete clause to be put into your contract, which would prevent them letting it to competitors. It’s not something we have asked for yet but will make sure we do in all future locations, they can only say no.

In conclusion all commercial landlords are tos**rs and should’nt be trusted.