Kathryn Eastwood: Sainsbury’s does property

By Our Graduates on 20 August 2014

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Sainsbury’s property portfolio is vital to its business. Without it, there would be no stores to trade from, nowhere to hold goods awaiting distribution and no offices to coordinate these processes. But most people are at a loss as to what our Coventry-based Property Department actually does. Hopefully, I can shed some light on what goes on in our Midlands Store Support Centre!

When I tell people about my job, they invariably react in disbelief with the words “Sainsbury’s does property?”

This probably isn’t helped by the fact that I graduated with a degree in Modern Languages, and my property-related experience prior to working for Sainsbury’s was limited to a couple of internships and eager reading of the FT and Property Week.

But the reality is that our vast property portfolio – consisting of mixed-use developments, store support centres, non-operational units, depots, distribution centres and over 1,200 stores of all shapes and sizes – is vital to our set-up. Without it, we simply wouldn’t be able to run our business.

It is the task of the Property team to coordinate the above, and the easiest way to explain what we do is probably to describe (at a very high level) the ‘Store Cycle’.

  1. Everything begins with a Network Plan, the creation of which is a task carried out by our Location Planning department. Collating information about our existing store network, area demographics and competitors, our Location Planners pinpoint what kind of stores we need and where. In a similar fashion, teams in our Online and Logistics departments will create plans for depot requirements across the country
  2. Once we know what we need, it’s over to our Property Development team, whose role it is to acquire sites that fit the requirements of the Network Plan. This involves lots of time out on the road, liaising with agents to find potential locations, negotiating freehold and leasehold deals, securing planning permissions and working with developers
  3. When a site has been selected, it’s back to Location Planning, who will carry out due diligence measures before any contracts are exchanged
  4. The next step in the process falls to Feasibility and Store Planning. The Feasibility team designs our logistics and online hubs, and looks at the ‘externals’ of our supermarkets; everything from the design of the buildings to the layout and accessibility of car parks. Store Planning focus on the ‘interiors’, planning where products are located and how the warehouse is laid out so that customers can shop easily and colleagues can operate smoothly. The Concessions team will work closely with Store Planning by lining up and managing our in-store partners (anything from GP surgeries to dry cleaners) to give our customers the best possible service
  5. Once this process is complete, Construction and Delivery step in, managing contractors and engineers to deliver the physical build itself. Et voilà - our stores and distribution centres are finally ready to open!
  6. The journey does not stop at this point, however. In fact, the work is just beginning for our Estates team. Their role is to look after the existing portfolio, from dealing with day to day maintenance issues, to completing rent reviews and lease renewals or letting out surplus space that we don’t use for retail purposes. They also deal with the final stage of this Store Cycle, generating income for future developments from properties we no longer require

This then, in a nutshell, is what happens in Property, from Network Plan to disposal. Of course, the process is rarely smooth and requires significant interaction across the entire department. In addition, there are many different work streams and initiatives that run alongside the processes described above, covering everything from implementing new formats and sustainable technologies, to monitoring competitor impacts and analysing investments and financial budgets.

As a Property Graduate with Sainsbury’s, I’ve been given a unique opportunity to work with all of these teams, as well as the responsibility to manage a number of external agents on a variety of projects. I’ve gone from overseeing a nation-wide work stream for stores one day, negotiating leases with a developer the next, and then setting up a marketing website the following week! There is never a dull moment in this busy department, as I hone my technical knowledge and develop my skills whilst thinking about how to do the very best for customers, colleagues and shareholders.

And one thing I have learnt for certain: Sainsbury’s most definitely does Property.

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  • Our GraduatesThe graduates on our 2020 Leaders programme write about their experiences as Sainsbury's graduates.