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Retail & Leisure

Retailers operate in one of the most competitive markets on the planet. Consumer trends, economic pressures, advances in IT and globalisation all contribute toward sometimes volatile markets. The reward, however, for understanding and adapting to these pressures can be huge. It is important, therefore, that your lawyers can provide commercial, pragmatic and insightful advice to help keep you at least one step ahead.

At Gowling WLG, we have one of the UK's largest retail and leisure teams with more than 45 lawyers working across all disciplines including intellectual property (IP), commercial contracts and IT, real estate and corporate.

We work alongside some of the world's most successful and innovative retailers, ranging from FTSE 100 companies to smaller innovative start-ups which are likely to be among the leading global brands of the future.


Our retail and leisure clients include:

Arcadia (Burton, TopShop, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis), A.S.Watson Group (Superdrug, Savers, The Perfume Shop), ASOS, B&Q, Crew Clothing, Debenhams, Enterprise Inns, Fat Face, Fitness First, Home Retail Group (Argos, Homebase), Jaeger, Leon, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Mucho Mas (Chilango), Netto, Poundland, Pump Gyms, Sainsbury's, Specsavers, Whitbread (Premier Inn), Wickes, Young & Co's Brewery, P.L.C.

Gowling WLG is attending Retail Week Live on 8th-9th March at the O2, London, and is a key sponsor of the Retail Week General Counsel Summit on 14th June, Ham Yard Hotel, London.

All of our specialist teams advise retail clients including the following:

Intellectual property

A strong IP portfolio is a key asset for any successful retailer. Developing an IP strategy, ensuring that rights are effectively protected and exploited, and knowing when and how to protect those rights from attack will allow the business' reputation and its value to thrive.

Our 40-strong specialist team combines a commercial and tactical approach to help our clients' IP work harder. Whether in the initial stages of conception and development or the exploitation and enforcement of valuable rights, we enable clients to reduce risk and maximise the potential of their IP.

Led by retail specialists and partners Kate Swaine and Alex Brodie, our team delivers a comprehensive IP service, with expertise in trademarks, designs, copyright, patents, domain names, confidential information, trade secrets and licensing.

Our experience includes advising global businesses with global brands and products. Our team can be found helping North American companies adopt and exploit their brands in Europe, guiding the development and clearance of Europe-wide IP portfolios, advising the UK's top businesses on branding strategies, devising confidentiality policies with suppliers or managing global IP enforcement programmes.

Advertising and marketing

Effective marketing is key to getting people into store (whether bricks and mortar or online). Retailers are anxious to attract cost conscious consumers, so competition is fierce and aggressive price comparisons and promotions are everywhere.

Meanwhile advances in technology offer the opportunity to track consumers online and into the real world, paving the way for more detailed analysis of who the customer is, more accurate calculation of ROI and greater personalisation of offers.

Our specialist advertising and marketing law team, led by Dan Smith, advises retail clients across the board on advertising and marketing issues, supporting creativity and effective marketing, while controlling legal risk.

We clear price promotional strategy to manage the risk of regulatory issues (highlighted by the Which 'super complaint' about supermarket price offers in the UK), challenge competitors on their comparative advertising, defend retailers against ASA complaints and negotiate local and international contracts with advertising agencies and celebrities.

With our privacy and data protection specialists, we advise traditional and online retailers on their use of technology and data to better know their customers and promote their offerings.

Advertising and marketing issues can arise at a moment's notice - our team is on call to provide expert, practical solutions immediately you need them.

Commercial contracts and IT

In-house legal teams can outsource commercial contracts of all sizes, description and complexity to our expert team, which has worked with retail brands including Marks and Spencer and Premier Foods on meeting and exceeding compliance standards.

Our breadth of capability ranges from high volume routine contracts to advising on property management contracts for vast retail chains, and our sector experience includes not just retail but related areas such as food and drink, financial services, and travel & leisure.

Our IT team can help you mitigate risks and achieve a good deal on your IT projects. We work with both vendors and purchasers and our experts quickly identify and resolve the big issues, spot the traps and concentrate on what really matters. We provide responsive and thorough advice to help our clients achieve the results they are looking for.

We have advised many retail clients including Arcadia Group, Bracknell Regeneration Partnership, Coliseum Shopping Park, Home Retail Group, Intu, Leon, Marks & Spencer, McDonald's Restaurants, SuperGroup, The Manchester Arena and The Shard have all turned to our IT experts for advice on projects related to online platforms, IT systems for CCTV and other security systems, payment card systems (including the FCA regulatory aspects), shopping centre telecommunications systems, and retail management systems.

Real estate

Acquiring the right space quickly and on the right terms can help you gain competitive advantage. If you are looking at prime pitches, you will need lawyers who can work to the timescales agreed, with the minimum of fuss, while obtaining sensible terms.

We have long-standing relationships with all the major retail and leisure landlords and agents. Our experience in acting for both tenants and landlords means we understand their strategic objectives and any potential hurdles to reaching agreement. This means your route to achieving a satisfactory deal is smoother and more timely and cost effective.

Experience includes undertaking a large amount of work for Sainsbury's. This includes advising on the redevelopment of Bicester town centre in partnership with the local authority to provide a £70 million mixed-use scheme. We helped the supermarket reach practical completion through expert negotiation with third parties - acquiring and varying third-party rights to give the development the green light.

We also advise more than 30 retailers and restaurant operators on their occupational requirements.


The support of a strong Corporate team with real in depth sector knowledge and experience can be vital in supporting growth through fundraising and/or acquisition or expanding internationally through strategic joint ventures. Equally, disposing of non-core assets or exiting particular jurisdictions in an efficient, clean manner enables a retail business to concentrate on its core business.

Our corporate retail and leisure team is led by partner Balhit Chohan (client partner for Poundland and The Midcounties Cooperative among others) and director Ragi Singh (an ex-professional cricketer with a strong background in sports and leisure advising, for example, Sports plc, Ricoh Arena and Warwickshire County Cricket).

They have carried out many corporate transactions including; raising funds for existing and new chains; advising investors and founding families in realising their investments in portfolios often through sale, listing or equity release; acquiring existing portfolios consisting of both bricks and mortar and on-line presences. They are also one of the few teams who assist UK retail and leisure businesses in entering Asian markets through strategic joint ventures.

Particular areas of expertise lie in food (retail and restaurants), clothing and fashion, travel, sport and gyms. In early 2015 the team led on the disposal of Chill Factore, the largest indoor snow facility in Europe based at the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Key Contact

Christopher Hunt
Christopher Hunt

Meet our Retail & Leisure professionals

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