Atterbury Europe’s newest team member, Julian Smith, took up the position as General Manager of the Mall of Cyprus and Mall of Engomi at the end of October last year. We got to know this dynamic globetrotter a little better.
What led you to joining forces with Atterbury Europe? Where did you come from to take up these positions?
I have been in retail for over 30 years, more recently managing shopping and outlet centres in the Republic of Ireland. The market in Ireland is very mature with minimal scope for further development. Atterbury Europe’s expansion and development plans throughout Europe are very exciting and the schemes in Cyprus offer the scale and challenge I was seeking both personally and professionally.
What was it about Cyprus Mall that interested you for a next career move?
The size of the scheme, its pipeline of tenants and, primarily, that it is owner-operated rather than managed by external agents who may not have the same motivation for success. In my experience, landlord-run schemes tend to be a more dynamic environment with quicker decision-making and implementation processes. The recently extended Mall of Cyprus in Nicosia is the market leader on the island and offers many opportunities for further growth.
Where are you originally from? Give us a brief rundown of your career up to when you joined Atterbury Europe. Where did it all start?
I’m British, though I am also soon to be an Irish citizen and “a European” once again. I started my career on an accelerated management development programme with Lloyds Bank PLC who sponsored my business degree. However, I knew very early on that the strict regulations of the environment were not going to give me the excitement or scope for initiative that I craved and so I left and moved into sales with TDK, the Japanese magnetic media manufacturer. I moved through the ranks of field sales, regional management, key accounts, distributor sales, product and brand management over an eight-year period when TDK was at its peak. In effect I did my sales and marketing apprenticeship with them and took those skills overseas, moving to Bahrain in 1994 to run the Sony division of a local retail and distribution company, becoming General Manager the following year. After four successful years, I was approached by the Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Group to develop a concept and implement a chain of consumer electronics superstores across the UAE within the MAF group’s shopping centres. Moving back to Europe shortly after the millennium, I met an Irish girl and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve now been living in Ireland for the past 17 years.
Wow, a real globetrotting lifestyle… and this time you are bringing family along to Cyprus! Tell us more about them, and the experience of relocating a family around the world?
Cyprus, though not my first overseas posting, will be my family’s first experience of living overseas. My wife, Susan, has a sales and marketing background and, in recent years, has also owned her own coffee-shop franchise which we successfully sold back to the brand in 2016. Since then she’s been developing a direct-marketing business promoting aloe vera products with Forever Living. Our daughters are well-travelled, having spent holidays in Sweden, Denmark, France, Spain, the US and, of course, the UK. Holly (15) is taking exams this year and so will stay in Ireland until the end of May. Daisy (12) is due to start senior school in September and so it’s an opportune time to make this move. Both are very experienced horse riders and Daisy has her own pony. Both are also great swimmers which the Cypriot climate should help facilitate. Holly is a keen hockey player and Daisy plays the clarinet, and they’re both Netflix junkies. Our biggest challenge in terms of the move is what to do with our two-year old Cockapoo dog, Teddy…
How do you overcome language barriers when moving to a different territory, or is that not an issue?
In Cyprus, everyone speaks English and so I do not foresee any major issues. I do hope that we will all fully embrace the Cypriot culture and learn some Greek along the way.
What are your priorities for 2020 in the new position – what do you foresee to be some of the opportunities and challenges that you’ll be addressing?
Obviously, as the “new guy”, I need to establish myself with the on-site team and get to know all of the tenants and key suppliers. I also need to understand the local market in terms of factors affecting the retail environment here. Having just completed the expansion of the mall, we are about to rebrand the scheme with a new logo and collateral materials such as new website, signage and advertising. There are also some historical issues to deal with plus some tenant refurbishments and relocations planned during the year. Later this year we expect to redevelop Mall of Engomi which will present further challenges in managing a trading operation while construction takes place.