Retail Real Estate Experts talk about their life and career on Bayfield Training Blog.

Joseph Leftwich

Director, Retail Management Consultants



SEUNG JUN OH: You started your career as a policy manager for the Scottish Government, what made you relocate to retail real estate sector?

JOSEPH: I was born into it. My father was a retailer. His dad owned a kids wear business and was a wholesaler of Italian suits in London in the sixties. And my great-grandfather was a tailor before him. Then on my mother’s side, her father spent most of his career working as a food scientist at Sainsbury’s. When Retail Management Consultants was founded by my parents in 1987, I was evicted from my bedroom to make way for our first office – my selfless dedication to the retail sector started there and then. Although I didn’t set out to go into the world of retail – and I actually really enjoyed my time at the Scottish Executive – perhaps it was inevitable that I’d gravitate in this direction sooner or later.

SEUNG JUN OH: You were involved in many projects across the world, what are the key differences that you have noticed between shopping centres in different regions?

JOSEPH: I love seeing people react to new shopping malls in emerging and frontier markets. Marvelling at the open spaces; the air conditioning; the foreign brands; fast food! Giggling as granny steps on an escalator for the first time. It’s important to be reminded what a truly incredible environment shopping centres are – and what they can mean to people. We’re a tough crowd, us Brits, and hard to please. But our shopping centres are still at their best when they appeal to our sense of astonishment.

“It’s important to be reminded what a truly incredible environment shopping centres are – and what they can mean to people”


SEUNG JUN OH:You have provided consultancy services to many different retailers. In the context of franchising, what are the key factors that individual retailers find the most difficult when moving out to a new country?

JOSEPH: Humility – being realistic about the prospects for your brand in a new market. Empathy – appreciating the commercial challenges your partner may face. Flexibility – Plan A is usually just the beginning.

SEUNG JUN OH: With the popularity of e-commerce rising, what do you think are the steps shopping centres should consider in order to meet the new demands/standards of the shoppers?

JOSEPH: I don’t’ have the answer. Online shoppers simply don’t place demands on shopping centres. In fact, much of the appeal of online shopping is that you don’t have to go to a shopping centre. The larger malls will continue to be popular but I’m unsure what options smaller shopping centres have. Some may innovate and adapt to become highly-specialised local amenities – but remember, people said this about town centres years ago and it never really happened. Others will muddle through as they are. Many will close. I’d be very concerned if I was a landlord or an investor.

SEUNG JUN OH: When it comes to consumer shopping dynamics, how do you think they have changed over the years?

JOSEPH: Customers haven’t really changed at all. They want good service, good products, conveniently and at a reasonable price. Technology will continue to drive innovation in the means by which retailers can deliver what customers want, but what they want now is what they have always wanted.