5 Minutes With Steve Medway, Place Manager, Cadogan

Steve Medway joined Cadogan last year after a stint at the New West End Company, where he was instrumental in overseeing the management, promotion and sustainability of Oxford, Regent and Bond streets. He sits down with Retail Gazette to talk about his plans as Cadogan's first-ever Place Manager.

Steve Medway

Congrats on the new gig at Cadogan!

It feels great to be part of such a well-established estate and experienced team.

Placemaking is a crucial element of Cadogan’s strategy for Chelsea, and I am looking forward to progressing a number of exciting projects next year to further this aim.

Tell me a bit about the Cadogan story.

The Cadogan Estate originated from the unity of two great 18th century families through marriage: the Cadogans and the Sloanes. It celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2017.

Today, the estate consists of over 93-acres of prime property in Knightsbridge and Chelsea in west London, including popular retail destinations Harvey Nichols, Sloane Square, Duke of York Square and a large section of the King’s Road.

Initially the fabric of the estate was residential but over the last 20 years we’ve expanded our retail, hospitality and food and beverage offer to create a leading retail and cultural destination.

The Cadogan Estate is now home to a mix over 300 shops, 30 restaurants, cafes and bars, 500,000sq ft of office space and nine hotels, in addition to residential holdings.

What gap in the UK retail market does the Cadogan Estate strive to address?

For over three centuries Cadogan has looked after the stewardship of Chelsea, and this heritage affects the business decisions we make now. Our long-term interest in the area means we always look beyond the financial implications to focus on the best decisions for the local community.

Pavilion Road is a prime example of this. Cadogan held a public consultation in 2015 to find out the types of shops local residents wished to see in the area. Following the community’s feedback that they would like to see traditional artisan stores such as a butcher and greengrocer, we delivered a selection of stores and created a “village heart” in Chelsea.

“We always look beyond the financial implications to focus on the best decisions for the local community.”

What’s in store for Cadogan in 2019?

We are working on an exciting project with one of the most iconic shopping streets in London, which will launch in the spring. I can’t give too much away at this point but watch this space.

How is Cadogan addressing some of the challenges facing the retail industry as a whole?

Interestingly, the estate is outperforming London and the wider UK retail industry in terms of footfall. Our Springboard data shows an overall upwards trend in visitors – levels were down 0.7 per cent year-on-year in 2018 but that is offset against a positive year of 1.3 per cent increase in visitor levels in 2017.

The strong performance is being achieved through a retail strategy that targets new and exciting brands to the area. For example, Italian menswear brand Slowear opened its first store in spring 2018, Peloton, the American “must have bike brand”, opens on the King’s Road before Christmas, and luxury designer Balenciaga is due to open a flagship store on Sloane Street in early 2019.

Combined with our food and beverage and hotel strategy, we are cultivating the estate into more than just a place to shop, but as a destination for visitors to travel to and spend time experiencing the neighbourhood.

The Pavilion Road food offering has transformed the dining experience in Chelsea, with Granger & Co, vegan restaurant Wulf & Lamb and further innovative ventures due to launch in early 2019.

This transformation continues into 2019 across the estate.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector, given the current climate?

In my opinion, other than Brexit, there are two overarching risks to the retail sector in the UK: business rates and high street stagnation.

We work hard to support retailers wherever possible on the estate and have looked at the impact of business rates, coupled with rent to analyse affordability for our tenants. We adjust rents accordingly, to encourage a mix of retailers in Chelsea, from independent traders to well-known international brands. Putting the community and its future at the heart of our business decisions means we often consider placemaking and legacy foremost.

“We are cultivating the estate into more than just a place to shop.”

In order to protect our bricks-and-mortar retailers against the onslaught of online retail, we also offer a host of initiatives to help drive footfall on the estate, such as our Chelsea in Bloom flower festival which ties into the Chelsea Flower Show.

Describe your role and responsibilities at Cadogan

As Place Manager, it is my responsibility to review and think about how Cadogan can manage key areas of the estate to improve the experience for residents, visitors and local workers.

In a nutshell, I look at different spaces on the estate and identify in some cases what’s missing, how to elevate or activate them, make them more accessible or physically improve them.

I also have the brilliant role of leading our stewardship strategy (which is our corporate social responsibility approach), where we look ahead to the next 10 years and recognise the goals we would like to achieve as an estate for the environment and the community, while retaining Chelsea’s heritage.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background beforehand.

The early part of my career was spent working on the shop floor at Gap, a brand that really invested in its people and gave me an unbeatable start. There, I learnt how important service, experience and ultimately, the customer is, as well as how to be a strong leader.

Having spent a considerable amount of my time with the business in London’s West End, I got involved with the New West End Company, chairing Oxford Street Retailer Group.

I was then offered the fantastic opportunity of working with the New West End team to manage and market the area – one of the most iconic retail destinations in the world.

Launching the first business-led Air Quality Strategy, working on projects such as the annual Christmas lights switch on and London’s first trial “Smart Street”, were all key achievements that I’m thankful to have been a part of.

What got you into retail in the first place?

“Other than Brexit, there are two overarching risks to the retail sector in the UK: business rates and high street stagnation.”

Like so many of us, I started working in retail as a part time job while I was studying at university. I loved the culture, the people and most of all working with customers so it seemed like a natural career choice when I finished my degree.

After graduating, I joined Gap full time and worked my way up through the management programme to become a district manager. Retail teaches you so many skills: from creativity, and the leadership and mentoring of a team to managing a P&L and large-scale operations.

Retail is sometimes overlooked as a long-term career choice with most people falling into it a similar way to me, but it can be an extremely rewarding profession, where people can develop a varied skill-set as every day is different.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

I’ve gained a deep understanding of the retail sector and what shoppers are looking for from 14 years working in retail. This allows me to look analytically at spaces and the elements that need to be improved or adapted from the perspective of both parties.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

So far, there haven’t been any notable challenges – but naturally I’m sure some may arise as we embark on large-scale, complex projects in 2019. However, I am lucky that I work for a business that understands the importance of my role and is supportive of my thinking which means that challenges are much easier to overcome.

And the most rewarding?

I get to work with some of the most iconic, beautiful spaces in London. When I see people experience these spaces it gives me a sense of pride in the work that I do.

What advice would you give someone who is considering embarking on a career in retail?

Set yourself an ambitious goal of where you want to be in five to 10 years’ time, and make sure you choose a brand that values its people and customers.

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