Bringing a an analytical perspective to the world of design - five minutes with Alex Avery, CEO of new Handley House business Pragma

Contact Alex Avery, CEO Pragma Consulting
a.avery@pragmauk.com

Last month Benoy was delighted to welcome Pragma Consulting, the leading commercial advisor for investors and operators in mixed-use, travel and retail property, to the Handley House family. Here we take five minutes with their CEO Alex Avery to hear how Pragma is settling in and what's coming up for the business.

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Can you tell us a bit about Pragma and who you all are, what you do?

Pragma Consulting is a specialist consulting firm advising investors and operators in commercial property, covering mixed-use, retail property, and travel retail. We exist to create positive consumer experiences and enhance commercial value through better connecting people, products and places. 

The proposition is based on creating commercial strategies and advice for decision-makers through insightful analytics, strategic research, robust modelling, global experience, and new thinking. We provide services in commercial strategy, space planning, and investment advisory.

We support the full spectrum of stakeholders in the built environment, including investors, developers, asset managers, operators, consultants, and brands. We work at all stages of the life-cycle, including initial feasibility studies at concept development; supporting space planning and design through the build stage; providing strategic support to improve performance once operational; and supporting on asset acquisition or disposal, as well as space refurbishment and repurposing.

We are a team from a variety of backgrounds, that have specialised in management consulting. There are 15 executives in the team, composed of 11 consultants and four members of the central support team, all based in the London office (when not working remotely). Our projects typically involve a combination of analysing customer profiles and demands, market supply dynamics, retail and consumer trends, along with commercial performance and trading data analysis, to develop insight and recommendations to enhance the commercial performance of assets.

Alex Avery

We’re looking forward to seeing where we can work together as the Handley House Group – what kinds of clients do you typically work with? Where might there be synergy?

We are delighted to have been welcomed into the Handley House Group, and feel there will be many opportunities to work together. We have worked with many of the same clients, and on the same assets, albeit potentially at different times. Examples of our client base include:

- Commercial property asset managers and developers (e.g. Legal & General, Stanhope)

- Airport operators and investors globally (e.g. Heathrow Airport, Mumbai International Airport)

- Retail, F&B, and leisure brands and operators (e.g. Energie Gyms, Pret a Manger, Honest Burgers)

As such, we have the potential to work alongside Benoy, Holmes Wood, and Uncommon Land across a variety of client types, sectors, and project briefs. On retail property and mixed-use assets, we may be employed at the design development stage, or when operational. So we may help firm up the client area brief for a new development that a design team are working on, through undertaking detailed analysis of the composition of the catchment and addressable audience around the asset; analysing and auditing the quantum and composition of current and future retail supply; and creating recommendations for the appropriate mix of commercial space, and brands, as well as providing forecasts of achievable sales turnover. 

On Heathrow, we have previously worked specifically alongside Benoy, on the commercial analytics of the future master planning options. In this instance, Pragma developed a space model to determine the appropriate guideline quantum and composition of commercial space by retail, F&B, and services categories, to inform the design planning. We then analysed the commercial potential of design options developed by the design team. 

For brands and operators, we often work with them to support the physical store location strategy, helping to identify the appropriate scale of portfolio and specific locations for a store to operate in; or we may work specifically on the concept development or enhancement of an existing retail or F&B store or proposition, for instance, to understand how the in-store experience can be improved – often this is to inform the interior design, or brand development of a new and improved store concept.

'We are really excited by the amazing variety of sectors, geographies, asset typologies, and clients, that Handley House businesses work with. It will be great to have the opportunity to bring together creative thinking and innovation, with Pragma’s analytics and research.'

What opportunities do you see ahead through being part of Handley House?

We honestly couldn’t think of a better fit for Pragma. Our team are motivated by the enjoyment and satisfaction of helping to enhance user experience and improve commercial performance, through optimising the built environment. We feel the objectives of the companies in the group are closely aligned, and we feel honoured to be able to work alongside the best architects, designers, and creatives in the business! We are really excited by the amazing variety of sectors, geographies, asset typologies, and clients, that Handley House businesses work with. It will be great to have the opportunity to bring together creative thinking and innovation, with Pragma’s analytics and research. 

'Our team are motivated by the enjoyment and satisfaction of helping to enhance user experience and improve commercial performance, through optimising the built environment.'

And finally, a bit about you – what’s your personal journey to Pragma – how long have you been working there and what do you enjoy most about your job? What is your vision for Pragma going forward?

I studied Business & Economics at Edinburgh University, then wanted to pursue a career in management consulting, and was lucky enough to find a good fit with my interests in consumers, brands, and commercial strategy, when I interviewed at Pragma as an Analyst. I have since been at the company for 14 years. The things I most enjoy include: making a tangible difference and positive impact to people’s lives through improving the built environment; travelling the world and experiencing new cultures, brands, and concepts; solving challenging problems in a fast-paced ecosystem; and the positive energy and culture of the business

Pragma has been operating for over 30 years, and over that lifespan has continued to evolve in response to market demands and business opportunities. As part of the Handley House Group, the business now has an exciting platform to develop the reach of the business, both in terms of the geographic coverage, as well as the range of property asset classes and development typologies that we can support on. We are keen to develop and enhance a market-leading proposition as the go-to consultancy for commercial strategy and insight.

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