9 December 2013
Set in the centre of the city, Liverpool ONE is the archetypical contemporary retail and leisure complex.
The feel is of a modern, out-of-town retail park somehow woven into the fabric of the city. Offerings across the site include retail stores, bars, restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, 36-hole indoor golf course and - on the rooftop - a five-acre park. It attracts more than 20 million visitors per year and is managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by an estates team managing a multi-million pound service charge budget.
Topshop, HMV, John Lewis and Debenhams are among the national brand names taking retail space. Since its opening in 2008, the centre has helped Liverpool to become one of the top five retail destinations in the UK.
The Liverpool ONE estate is a privately owned asset, owned by an investment fund called the Grosvenor Liverpool Fund. Grosvenor Estates are in that fund as an investor. The fund appoints teams for fund management, asset management and property management.
Fund and asset management is done in-house by staff employed directly by Grosvenor Estates, with a team headed up by head of asset management Miles Dunnett - the person generally referred to as the client.
While Grosvenor didn't want to directly manage facilities in-house, it was keen to follow a similar model. Accordingly, a subsidiary was set up called Liverpool One Property Management Company, being a 50/50 joint venture between Grosvenor and Broadgate Estates. Chris Bliss, formerly project facilities manager for Grosvenor, now runs Liverpool One Property Management Company as estate director and reports to its board, which comprises two directors from Grosvenor and two from Broadgate Estates.
Reporting in to Bliss are four team leaders. Chris Grundy is responsible for operations (ranging from health and safety through to security and cleaning); Donna Howitt is marketing director (dealing with everything consumer-facing); Sara Carthy is support services director (with responsibilities ranging from HR to customer service and office management administration); and Cathy Maddock deals with commercialisation. That last role includes brand engagement work including liaison with retailers for the promotion of new products or the use of short term temporary lets for 'pop-up' shops.
Another individual reporting into Bliss is Ian Finlayson, head of business performance. Finlayson provides analysis of footfall and sales. Finlayson talks to store managers about their individual performance and their performance against similar retailers, data which is then fed into the asset management team so that they can understand how those tenants are performing; solutions to under-performing tenants can then be discussed, such as locating them elsewhere on the estate.
The 160-strong facilities staff is employed directly in-house. "That's very unusual," says Bliss. "Generally, shopping centres have managing agents and that agent may put some of their own staff in and then outsource all sorts of different work streams. Right back at day one, we made a conscious decision that we didn't want that model.
"The reason we didn't want that is that generally the landlord and managing agent relationship will vary in length between three to five years. So there is a tender and negotiation process that has to be factored in. You then have the same process in all those sub-contracts that sit underneath it, and sometimes sub sub-contracts of that.
"So you might go to an FM service provider, and they might use separate cleaning and security contractors, and before you know where you are you've got the best part of 100 front-facing staff; staff that you want to sell the brand, be proud of where they work, and to create that wonderful experience - who are almost constantly in some form of contract negotiation.
"We wanted to stand out. We've got wonderful architecture; we know we've got excellent retailing and the asset management team work really hard on that. But what's the bit where we can really make a difference? It's in how we engage with that customer. How can we enliven their day, how can we make Liverpool ONE feel really magnetic? That's what the driving factor was for us."
After all, says Bliss, customers need only travel half an hour down the M62 to be in Manchester's Trafford Centre.
Staff retention over the past five years stands at 38 per cent. And with 100 of those 160 being shift workers, that's a significant retention rate, suggests Bliss.
There is an exception to the in-house rule, and it's the obvious one - M&E. "Where there's high-risk activity, we use subcontracted specialists," says Bliss. "Honeywell does all of our M&E and electronics, and they have a permanent team that's based here. We also use Otis for lifts and escalators and Mitie for high-level glass cleaning and specialist cleaning [for example, the cinema screens] as well as grounds maintenance in the park."
All together now
Another difference is that the client, Dunnett's team, sits in the same office as Bliss's. "That's been an interesting journey to go on," admits Bliss. "There aren't that many organisations that would plonk their client right in the middle, warts and all.
"It probably was uncomfortable at first, but now quite frequently they'll ask questions of us and challenge things. We should all be open to challenge and have to reflect on what we do, perhaps tweaking and adjusting things."
"On a day-to-day basis, the asset manager sat in this office can be having a conversation with the analyst crunching the numbers; if they're going to go into lease conversations with a tenant, a quick chat beforehand to make sure that they're informed and up-to-date on any operational issues is helpful."
All of this can be achieved through analysis of performance data and conversations with the asset manager and retailer.
"Sometimes those issues can be really simple," says Bliss. "For example, a change of store manager can be the number one reason why a store starts to struggle. The number two reason is merchandise selection and window dressing - which can also connect back to store management. So having conversations with the client about the retailers can be really quick and efficient."
With so much retail activity, deliveries are constant and the need to deal with waste generated across the site is acute. Between 500-600 tonnes of cardboard a year is recycled, while glass recycling was introduced two years ago. In the last three years the centre has gone from recycling around 8 per cent of waste on site to close to 40 per cent. And while glass and cardboard are the main recyclable items, a further 25 tonnes of coffee granules are also disposed of each year.
At Christmas, more staff are brought in as well as a specialist bailing service to cope with peak demand from retailers. (Some retailers, John Lewis and Debenhams among them, conduct waste management operations themselves in areas dedicated to them.)
With continual pressure to introduce efficient means of dealing with waste generated across the site, food waste is the latest focus. Recently, waste-to-water food digestion machines have been installed. Left-over food is recovered from retail units and put into the machines, which convert the food into water which is then disposed of down the public drains. For more on these systems, see p.26).
Next issue: How Liverpool ONE's estates team deals with the site's underground car park and open park space.
Infrastructure and IT: Controlling influence
Liverpool ONE's estate's control infrastructure and IT network was boosted earlier this year when Honeywell Building Solutions was brought in to design, install and commission a major upgrade - and deploy a privately hosted virtualisation solution across the site's server infrastructure.
Where once stood 33 servers and 28 storage arrays for the CCTV system, virtualisation has helped lower that figure to just four servers and six storage boxes - a reduction which is expected to lead to between £20-25,000 in annual energy savings. The team believes the move to virtualisation, and through it the breaking of the traditional hardware/ software replacement cycle, will mean greater flexibility in both software and hardware renewal for the future.
From its control room, the estates team monitors the entire site through 710 CCTV cameras. Recently installed motion-sensing software allows operators to quickly scan for incidents such as shop thefts, tracking potential criminals from store to store. Operators can talk directly to store guards to make them aware, and can also now view and control building systems using a variety of mobile devices, including Blackberry and iPhone.
As well as the move to virtualisation, the BMS upgrade has seen the system better customised for the specific requirements of Liverpool ONE's varied requirements
- a result of five years' "real life" evaluation of the issues encountered since the centre opened. Small details matter; for example, the batteries that supply back-up power for emergency lighting. These have a tendency to get hot, so now there are temperature sensors set to trigger and inform operators.
"The upgrades have reduced electrical and cooling requirements, which will cut Liverpool ONE's CO2 emissions significantly," claims Honeywell's national account manager John Leonard.
Honeywell is providing training for its Enterprise Building Integrator (EBI) BMS system to members of the Liverpool ONE team who work alongside the resident Honeywell engineers, while Honeywell also provides a 24/7 monitoring and support service to ensure the system's integrity.