CBRE’s David Close advises American brands on their entry into the UK. Completely’s Dom Millar caught up with him to talk about which brands work in the UK and how he came to have a share in a Michelin-starred restaurant.
David, good to see you: what’re you drinking?
Always a Pinot Noir, thanks. I come here to Vagabond every Friday with my fiancée and dog.
So why did you get into property? Does it run in the family?
No, not at all, my Dad was a rally driver and I am the first in my family to get into property. I was studying at Newcastle and a guy I knew in the year above was working at Churston Heard retail London and was moving to LA. He called me and said that I would like the role there and I never looked back. I worked with Guy Grainger, now EMEA MD at JLL, he employed me and I owe a lot to him.
You specialise in advising American brands on international expansion. I guess you spend most of your time in airports and shops?
Yeah I really do. I’m about to fly to Denver for business. I usually spend five or six weeks a year in the USA meeting retailers and looking for the next big thing coming to Europe. I love shopping and have some favourite brands I am quite loyal to: Moncler, Lululemon, Lee Jeans and Armani.
Who are some of the retailers who you’ve helped come to the UK?
A long time ago I brought Vans to the UK when I was straight out of uni. I cold-called them before they were bought by VF Corporation and did their Carnaby Street store. I think that was the most exciting deal I ever did. Other brands include Lululemon – which is probably the best company I ever worked with. The people there are amazing and I would call them good friends now.
Anybody due to open over here we should be watching out for?
Under Armour, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware are businesses to look out for.
Why do you think the UK and London in particular, has become such a target for international retailers?
I’ve travelled all over and I honestly believe that London is the best city in the world. It’s so international and has the best mix of restaurants and shopping. London is the gateway into Europe and Regent Street is the place to be. I walk London streets every week and find something new. I live in Shoreditch which really blows my mind; it’s the coolest place in the world for new concepts and ideas.
Do you ever have to tell brands that you think their concept just won’t work in the UK?
It’s not an easy one to tell a retailer their brand just won’t work in the UK but you can show them how other brands have struggled. If you are not world-class and unique, you won’t make it in the UK.
Like rugby international and surveyor, Rob Andrew, you went to Barnard Castle school. Are you also a sporty type?
I love sports and played everything at school, but was just average at most things. My brother James was also at Barnard Castle. He was a very good golfer but is now a Michelinstarred chef. He was an inspiration to me.
The word is you’re quite a foodie and have an interest in James’s eatery? Where is it and why’s it worth a visit?
Me, my bro and dad are obsessed with food. We have travelled the world together and eaten in some amazing places. James runs The Raby Hunt in the North of England and it is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in County Durham. It’s exceptional and ranked at number 17 in the Times UK restaurants of 2016. We will also be announcing a big surprise in 2016.
Speaking of which, fancy a snack? Crisps or nuts?
Always crisps: salt and vinegar.
Vagabond - Discover great wine
David and Dom met at Vagabond next to London’s Spitalfields market. It is an independent and award-winning wine bar and shop where you can enjoy 100 different wines by the sample, glass or bottle.
The unique thing at Vagabond, and certainly the most entertaining, is to sample wine from its dispensing machines. You can serve yourself without having to call a waiter or queue at the bar. You simply pop some money onto a Vagabond card (it’s like an Oyster card, except you get wine and it doesn’t go on strike) and you’re ready to go. It also serves tasty cheese and charcuterie platters plus other wine-friendly nibbles.
67 Brushfield Street
London E1 6AA
0203 674 5670