Nilesh Patel

Talking Shop: Nilesh Patel

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Our clients often talk about the changing face of retail in terms of store locations, scale and experience. So to gain further insights, we caught up with Nilesh Patel, Head of Retail at JLL New Zealand who specialises in retail sales and leasing.

Briefly describe your career path that has led you to become the Head of Retail at JLL New Zealand:

I graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Property/Commerce Degree in 2007. Whilst studying, I worked part time as a ‘sales assistant’ at Rodd and Gunn, Footlocker and Brave. JLL was my first place of professional employment (2006-2008) where I worked as a retail leasing broker while completing my studies. From there, I worked for two other global real estate firms and worked hard to make my way up the chain. Late last year, I was fortunate to be offered the Head of Retail role at JLL and commenced working here in January of this year.

What attributes of the retail industry fascinate you?

Retail trends and change. Retail is never a boring industry, there are always new and exciting brands/concepts coming into the market. Retailers are always thinking of innovative ways to be superior than their competition and the constant change in the industry is exciting for both consumers and retailers.

What do you believe are the current game changes within the retail industry?

Technology and online retail is growing almost twice as fast as bricks and mortar and millennials are a key driver for this growth. The ease of e-commerce vs the experience of a standard bricks and mortar store are going to prove challenging for retailers to keep consumers walking through their doors to drive up revenue. Rents are still increasing and with an ever increasing supply of retail development flooding the market, retailers are going to have to keep thinking of smarter ways to keep consumers physically visiting their stores and spending money to be profitable.

Has there been a shift in the physical footprint retailers are looking for – please elaborate:

In order to be more than just another retail ‘shop’, I believe many retailers are increasing the size of their tenancies to increase the average dwell time in their stores and to create that full ‘customer experience’. With larger foot prints come higher occupancy costs so there needs to be a balance. I believe there has been a decline in aggressive national roll-outs of national/international chains, which I feel is being compromised by less store numbers and larger store sizes in key geographical areas.

Where are the current retail hot spots in NZ and Australia .. are these new contenders to the market, and why are they now so popular?

In Australia, Melbourne and Sydney continue to lead the way for the retail market, especially in the food & beverage and fashion categories. In NZ, I have no doubt Commercial Bay in the Auckland CBD and Westfield Newmarket will be great additions to the NZ retail landscape when completed this year. At present and for me, Sylvia Park is a strong retail destination. It includes a strong retail mix, a good entertainment precinct and now an impressive dining district which together creates a destination of choice for the majority of consumers looking for an overall shopping experience.

What advice do you have for retailers looking for their next brick and mortar stores?

Don’t believe the media hype and negativity around bricks and mortar stores. Retailers can think of innovative ways to make the customer experience memorable and like the reality TV show “Location, Location, Location” I believe this is a key feature retailers must assess before opening a new store. Sure, occupancy costs need to be affordable to sustain profitable business models, but bricks and mortar stores are the heart of the retail industry and having an interface with consumers (assuming a great experience) will leave a lasting impression and drive repeat business.

How do you believe our physical infrastructure will need to adapt to accommodate the future of retail?

I believe there will be an increase in the demand for larger distribution centres for the larger players in the market to keep up with supply and demand as our population increases. The hype around Amazon’s ‘supposed’ entry into NZ has put the larger players on notice. Shopping centres are expanding and retail developers are looking at ways to diversify their assets to include office, residential and even hotels as the consumer’s expectation on retail and a full ‘experience’ evolves.

- March 2019