Robert GibsonFollowing up on our cover story from June 2012, Shopping Center Business checked in with Cushman & Wakefield executives while at the ICSC RECon show in Las Vegas last month. While there, we learned that New York City retail broker Robert Gibson had been named one of the company's top two producers in 2012, the first time ever a retail broker has been held that position at Cushman.
Pushing Gibson to the top were two deals he brokered for client H&M in Manhattan during 2012. The Swedish retailer closed a deal for a 57,000-square-foot store at 589 Fifth Avenue in the summer of 2012. The lease was the largest retail transaction in 2012 in Midtown Manhattan, and is H&M's largest store in the world. The retailer also leased 42,500 square feet at Four Times Square (42nd Street and Broadway). In addition to those two stores, Gibson — who represents H&M in the tri-state area — also cut a number of deals for Verizon Wireless and Capital One Bank in Manhattan, as well as Salvatore Ferragamo nationally.
"We are getting to the point in New York City where a lot of the submarkets of Manhattan are at their highest asking rent levels they've ever been," says Gibson. "There has been a slight slowdown in the velocity of getting deals done because it is tough for retailers to digest these high rents. It is difficult for retailers in Manhattan to figure out how these deals will make money. It is still very active; vacancies are very low in most of the submarkets, so there is competition for most spaces."
Gibson attributes his success in 2012 not only to his clients, but also to the retail group that Cushman & Wakefield has built nationwide.
"Part of the success that our retail group at Cushman has is the ability to service clients, not only in New York, but around the world," says Gibson. "I represent certain clients nationally and internationally. We have the ability to be able to execute in markets all over the world. We are very connected; one phone call and we have the right person on the phone to get market information. If a client is interested in China, we have a team that can expand them throughout the country, for example. Our cross-border business is growing every month."
Over the past few years, Cushman & Wakefield has continued to grow its presence in retail globally.
"Retailing has changed, and the way that Cushman has positioned its retail group to focus on global cities," says Matt Winn, the company's head of retail services in the Americas. "As a result, we have seen our retail business grow accordingly and become a more significant part of the firm. This has helped us integrate our services, such as how we integrate with our industrial folks to help our retail clients on the supply chain side to help retailers plan their overall portfolios going forward."
Winn says that Gibson's deals with H&M point to retail's revival post-recession.
"After the recession, everyone — whether that is U.S. retailers looking for new markets abroad or European retailers looking to come to Matt Winnthe U.S. — is trying to find new segments of the population," he says. "The flagship stores that H&M is embarking on are symbols of the globalization of retail."
Cushman & Wakefield has added 15 professionals to its retail group in the U.S. over the last 12 months. The group also recently promoted six of its professionals to vice chairman — Robert Gibson, David A. Green, C. Bradley Mendelson, Kazuko Morgan, Joanne Podell and Gene Spiegelman — the highest title among retail brokers at the company.
"The promotions recognize their long-term commitment to the firm, their ability to be productive and to attain the highest level at the company," says Winn. "For us, it is not about finding just the right person with the right local knowledge, but finding the right fit with our corporate culture. We are looking for the most productive and most creative professionals within each of the markets. You don't survive for 95 years and create a strong reputation without the best talent."
Cushman & Wakefield has spent 2013 filling out its retail teams in strong markets like South America and Asia, and growing markets like Panama, where the economy grew more than nine percent in 2012.
— Randall Shearin