With about 30 years of retail experience under his belt, Kevin Roher launched HG Retail Consulting focusing on helping businesses get on track and become profitable during these challenging economic times.
And a key area of concern these days for retailers has been leasing, paying rent, and their relationship with landlords.
“As a third-party consultant, we offer various services to organize, streamline, and improve profitability for retailers. Currently, my primary goal is to assist retailers in securing temporary rent relief to enable them to stay in business,” said Roher.
“As we all know, this pandemic has added a tremendous amount of stress for small businesses throughout the city. Some landlords have been helpful and empathetic, while others have refused to help at all. The government has offered small rent subsidies, but unfortunately that has been slow to implement. I know from experience how intimidating it can be to negotiate concessions from one’s landlord.
“I will serve as a mediator to the process and together we will formulate a strategy and set out to achieve the temporary relief necessary to get small business through the next six to 12 months. If I am successful in securing a rent reduction, my firm charges 20 percent of the amount saved by the tenant. If I am not successful, then there is no cost to the tenant.
“I feel this is a win win for everyone including the landlord. In the short term landlords may be unhappy about giving rent forgiveness, but in the long term they more than likely won’t end up with a vacant store. So far this particular rent reduction niche has proven to be very successful.”
Roher said one of the consultancy’s main focuses with retail businesses is to improve profitability by identifying the most important areas within the business that need value and guidance.
“I have been in the industry for 32 years, as a former retailer and store owner. This experience has given me the knowledge and skill set to work collaboratively with each client to improve various aspects of their business,” said Roher.
“Today the world of retail is changing at such a fast pace, that retail business needs to innovate and transform, in order to not only survive but thrive.
“Retailers are now faced with critical decisions on how to prioritize capital and operating expenses in order to build a stronger multi-channel platform and create incredible customer experiences within your retail environment.
HG’s understanding of the industry, its key value drivers and constantly changing trends is second to none. Our goal is to solve each retail client’s unique business improvement objectives. Most companies have different internal challenges but our entrepreneurial approach is to work proactively with the retailer to create maximum value by addressing each core issue, whether it’s marketing, inventory levels, purchasing, cash flow or e-commerce.”
For 28 years Roher ran two successful stores in midtown Toronto called Higher Ground and HG Girls. Last March he decided to retire, but the passion for retail came out in the latter part of 2020 to form the HG Retail Consulting business.
Roher said negotiating rents and leases can be stressful and it’s a process, and part of a business operation, that is not a retailer’s expertise.
“So far my success rate has been about 70 percent and that’s been great. I just find that most landlords are understanding and most tenants are intimidated by landlords. So as a third-party going in, I don’t have the skin in the game as they say. I just come in and do the negotiating on behalf of the tenant. What I do first though is sit down with the tenant, review their lease, I see what they have left in their lease, I look at what they have in options, and I discuss what our strategy is going to be in terms of going in and negotiating with the landlord. We come up with a game plan,” said Roher.
“I just approach the landlord and explain the situation. They tend to be pretty understanding for the most part. You get the odd landlord that won’t budge. But during this pandemic and just in general, people all over the city are overpaying for rent and there are a lot of landlords who aren’t budging.
“Everybody here is being affected. The retailer is struggling and having such a difficult time and they’re just hanging on by their fingernails essentially and they need help. It’s very nice for the government to step in with subsidies but it’s not enough and it’s taken them a long time to put this in place. And that’s been a real problem for many retailers. They were sitting there waiting for government to step up.”
For landlords, if they don’t give discounts to tenants many of those tenants will be forced to shut their doors and walk away from their space, said Roher.
“They’re (landlords) going to have an empty store,” he said. “For the most part they get it and they realize that half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf of bread at all.”
Roher said he does not work on deferral of rent, which doesn’t help the situation for retailers at all. In fact, it likely makes it worse. Roher works on forgiveness of rent.
“It’s hard. Some of these tenants are using their life savings or they’re going to the bank and they’re getting loans to pay their rent. That’s a pretty dire situation as far as I’m concerned,” said Roher. “And that’s what we’re getting into right now. That’s the type of thing retailers are moving into to survive. They’re just hanging on by their fingernails.
“Rent is a fixed cost and the tenant’s biggest partner is their landlord. That’s for everybody. That’s a fixed cost that’s not going away. Landlords have to be understanding in this particular situation. We’ve never had anything like this. It’s unprecedented. So they have to be able to bend, and be a little more forgiving and understanding. Doing the right thing is helping the tenant.”
Kevin Roher can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at: 416-618-2488