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5 minutes with 19th March 2024

Meet Tony Elvin, General Manager at prime retail and leisure destination Touchwood Solihull, owned by The Ardent Companies. Tony recently celebrated his sixth anniversary in the role, in the same week that the centre achieved 98.5% occupancy following a ten-year lease agreed with Oliver Bonas, as reported by Completely Retail.

What three words describe Workman?

Collaborative, focused, team-oriented

How are you putting your skills to their best use at Touchwood?

As GM at Touchwood, I am using my communication skills to make things happen. There are so many layers at play; ownership, asset management team, property management team and our facilities management team, then we have our tenants, our local stakeholders, and our guests.

I see my role as the glue between those components, and the messenger to share what our guests want from ownership, and what ownership want from our team.

Tell us about your role, and why this is important to the firm and its clients?

I believe my role is so key because I need to be the tone-setter for everyone else on site, I need to bring my energy every day to inspire those around me. I’ll never step over a piece of rubbish in the mall, which tells my security team that picking up litter isn’t just the housekeepers role. Our occupiers need to see that energy and passion from me too.

Externally, I am the face of Touchwood, to the council, the Police, the Solihull BID, in the local media and to the local business community. I have a role to play in talking up the centre, talking up the town and the region, giving people confidence in Touchwood and Solihull.

I get involved in leasing and have played a key role in bringing new retailers to Touchwood from my hospitality network, helping us reach 98.5% occupancy with new, exciting, and independent dining. This isn’t something that is necessarily part of my job description, but it’s vital in delivering other elements that are – ensuring that Touchwood remains a compelling destination, continuing to grow footfall and occupancy.

As the most senior person on site, these are things the firm must rely on me to deliver for the client and I couldn’t ask for greater support from Workman and our Asset Management team to fulfil my role.

How do you hope to develop your role in the coming months and years?

This is actually my first role for Workman and within a shopping centre environment, but I feel my previous experience as a hospitality manager has given me all the tools I need to deliver success at Touchwood.

While we have done a lot already in developing the centre, we have so much more we want to achieve that, for the first time in my career, I’m not looking ahead at what the next step outside of this role might be. Retail is evolving so quickly it is exciting to be part of that and leading that change.

What has been your standout Touchwood moment so far?

We have been lucky enough to pick up various awards during my time here, from REVO Centre of the Year, Greater Birmingham Business of the Year and even a Sceptre Award for Manager of the Year (pictured), but by far and away the best thing about my time at Touchwood has been the overall collaboration we enjoy every day.

It sounds cheesy, but this just doesn’t happen everywhere. Everyone is on the same page, nobody is trying to catch anyone out, and we are all focused on doing the best we can, together.

That’s locally within my own team, from Simon and Tom, asset management at CBRE, with my line manager James Ballantyne, MRICS Senior Associate, Gareth Soar, Partner and Head of Retail & Leisure, and the wider Workman team.

You just can’t put a price on that.

How does Touchwood generate social value within its local community? 

Contribution to Community is one of our core pillars at Touchwood and, as such, we have won a number of awards for our work in this area. We give local people a platform to celebrate what is culturally important to them with us, we support hundreds of local causes with prizes or volunteering time, we work with local schools and colleges presenting talks on careers, we mock interview, provide work experience and support.

We help raise awareness for good causes and even host our own Wellness drop in where guests can take some time out with a chat and a cuppa. We manage the town’s Shopmobility service, providing a lifeline to those otherwise unable to get our and do things we take for granted like shopping and meeting for coffee.

I firmly believe that the work we do and have done for the community has helped us stay relevant in the minds of local people and helped us continue to perform so strongly.

What change would you make to the wider property sector? And why?

Speed the bloody thing up, haha! Coming from a faster-paced environment, I have found the paperwork, process, and time taken around leasing to be hugely frustrating, but it’s a necessary evil to ensure all parties are protected from litigation.

What first led you into the property industry?

I was happily sitting in my office one day at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham when I received a call from a recruitment agent asking if I would consider managing a shopping centre. I was very happy where I was at the time and began to decline the overture, whilst asking where the property was.

When they mentioned Touchwood, which at that time was being managed by another former hotelier I was intrigued to find out more. I met with the departing manager, Andy Cole, someone I’d known for a good while, and he was right when he told me I would love it. I’ve not looked back.

What are your spare time pursuits and how do they feed into your role?

I have a real passion for wine, I’m a qualified Sommelier and host wine events as a hobby, sharing that knowledge. I have been able to support the some of our venues and stores with a tasting from time to time too.

Despite living in Solihull / Birmingham, I am a passionate West Ham supporter (hailing from Essex) and an avid NFL fan, having supported the New England Patriots (a professional American football team in the NFL) since 1985.

What is your favourite building worldwide, and why?

How can I choose? The Sagrada Familia is one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen, and I’d love to visit again when it’s finally finished in 2026, some 140 years after Antoni Gaudi began the mammoth project.

I love the imperious regal architecture of London and Madrid, the medieval architecture of the Alsace (home to my favourite wines) and have a few on my bucket list to visit including the Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul, and the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and India’s Taj Mahal.

What book or podcast do you recommend?

I listen to between six to eight hours a week of a New England Patriots podcast called Patriots Unfiltered and actually got to meet the presenters when the Patriots played an International game in Frankfurt last year… but as much as I love it, frankly, who wants that recommendation?

So, let me recommend my favourite books. All by Khaled Hosseini an Afghan-American novelist, UNHCR goodwill ambassador, and former physician. You’ve probably read them, but if not please do: The Kite Runner, And The Mountains Echoed, and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Incredible books that will make you laugh, think and cry.

Find out more about Workman Retail and Leisure Property Management here.