ACROSS: Immoveris is one of Switzerland’s leading real estate advisors. Which services does your company provide?
Bruno Kurz: We are a straight forward real estate service provider and offer consultancy services for investment, leasing, as well as strategic consulting. In the investment segment, we sell investment properties with a value of approximately 500 million euro annually.
These comprise industrial properties, many commercial properties like retail or office premises of course, but also apartment building portfolios. Furthermore, we established ourselves as leasing specialists in all property segments, first and foremost in the retail sector. We created databases with which we can visually identify and contact the respective target groups very quickly.
We are also strategic consultants for corporate real estate managers of major banks or state-affiliate businesses. We take the strategic lead with our asset management service in a cycle-encompassing way and based on a real estate accounting system in a fiduciary relationship. We are responsible for accounting, planning, management, monitoring, and realization.
ACROSS: What role do retail properties play at Immoveris?
Kurz: A significant one. Many of our clients are big institutional investors. We work either on individual projects or as custodians. When we work as custodians we handle and evaluate retail space for our clients permanently. This, of course, also includes leasing services, which we are particularly specialized in.
We established the term “soundings” to stand out from traditional marketing approaches. We define “sounding” as a precise lessee/market survey for a location or property. We survey the market, or potential lessees respectively, in regards to a (re)positioning project, the necessary number of square meters as well as current market conditions (space optimization, expansion, new concepts, etc.).
The bilateral feedback helps us to meet the retailers’ requirements in time and support our clients to make timely adaptions in the (re)positioning process, to their space requirements and the tenant mix.
ACROSS: What are the most common problems of retail spaces and how does one solve them?
Kurz: We currently have an oversupply of retail space in Switzerland. We have a few big malls, as well as many small and medium-sized centers. The Swiss market is characterized by its retail parks, and retail parks are not that easy to position successfully today.
We saw a strong wave of expansions by the mid-2000s in this sector. Now we are facing a wave of consolidations. The fact that most of today’s centers still do not have an individual brand identity has the most significant impact on this situation.
Retailers played along up to this point. Today, they want to be represented in a more strongly branded environment. At the same time, they are less willing to pay high rents. Their space requirements per location are also decreasing.
ACROSS: Revenues at Swiss shopping centers is decreasing as well. Have the retailers’ expansion plans become more cautious?
Kurz: We do annual studies on this issue. Decreases in revenue amounted to one percent in our last report. Therefore, they are not that alarming. Retailers, of course, are quick to question spatial requirements and the amount of their rent.
Our property owners, many of them are big institutional investors, have benefitted from growing demands for consumer goods for years. This situation has changed. The asset managers’ degree of specialization on the side of the owners is not yet as pronounced as it could be in today’s market environment. This is exactly why we see a great opportunity to offer our services.
We do more than traditional leasing and try to establish a consistent relationship with our owners. Therefore, we can provide comprehensive services and consult them anticipatively. As a result, they know what to expect from managing shopping centers.
ACROSS: How willing are international retailers to expand into Switzerland?
Kurz: There is definitely some interest. The buying power in Switzerland is still very good in relative comparison. An international retailer needs three locations for a market entry.
As an advisor, you must be able to provide them. The retailer does not know the market’s customs or local tenancy laws. We are very strong on all these areas. Wincasa, our subsidiary, manages €65 billion in property assets, including approximately 25 percent in retail space.
We are on good terms with these owners and we can facilitate a market entry with three locations, probably better than many others.
ACROSS: You also provide investment advisory services. What exactly do these entail?
Kurz: We are big transaction managers and sell numerous retail properties every year. As investment managers, we operate as general contractors. You hire us and provide the necessary data. You become a part of a structured sales process and are thoroughly taken care of.
At the end you, the owner, are presented with the decision papers. The only thing you have to do is sign the sales contract. We are a full-service provider and have established our good reputation and credibility in a sustainable way over the last years.