JLL-Gordon Brothers alliance is a team-up for the times


by Al Urbanski | Originally published in Chain Store Age


Nearly all retail concepts have their day, as brands like Toys “R” Us, Bon-Ton, and Payless have demonstrated. But the majority of retail chains are merely in need of tune-ups, and that is the job that JLL and Gordon Brothers intend to take on with their new strategic alliance.

“A lot of folks are saying, ‘This is the apocalypse’ and are gearing up to handle the discards. That’s not why we are doing this. What we see more of is retailers that are struggling, but not necessarily closing. They know they’ve got to make changes,” said Walter Wahlfeldt, executive VP of corporate services at JLL.

JLL and Gordon Brothers share long histories and global presences in commercial real estate. Together, they employ nearly 90,000 real estate professionals in more than 80 countries and generate $18 billion in transactional revenue each year. Leaders of both companies say each have strong points the other lacks that, when put together, can provide powerful solutions to retailers facing intense market pressured.

“Just by virtue of being JLL, we get a lot of calls and we offer a lot of services. What we do not do is liquidation. We don’t touch inventory,” Wahlfeldt said. “Gordon [Brothers] comes in and writes a retailer a check for the inventory.”

Gordon Brothers CEO of real estate Mark Dufton says that the alliance is a partnership for the times, a solution designed not just for retailers facing bankruptcy, but for brands looking to reinvent themselves.

“Inventory work is not always about store closings. We do openings, specialty sales, and excess inventory programs. Eighty percent of our work is with healthy clients,” Dufton said. “Combining our strengths with JLL’s, we’re looking at the transformation of retail. I don’t think there’s anybody in the business with the depth and breadth we have to offer together.”

The combined organization will focus on helping retailers minimize lease liabilities, maximize the value of their underperforming assets, and retain or migrate customers. A sizeable market exists for these services, Wahlfeldt figures.

“If you take the average retail chain in the marketplace, it can shave maybe 20% off its current costs,” he maintained. “All we hear about is Sears and Payless, but nobody looks at a company like Party City, a client of ours. They are constantly assessing their portfolio and re-examining their leases.”