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Retail, Leisure & Hotels

Retailers, leisure operators and hotel developers, investors and managers compete in some of the most challenging and fast-changing sectors. Now, more than ever, you need legal advisers who embrace change and give you commercial, pragmatic and insightful advice to help you thrive.

Appreciating the pace of change and developments in your sectors, and how proactive and flexible you have to be to compete, is our strength. Gowling WLG has one of the UK's largest retail, leisure and hotels teams with over 45 lawyers working across all disciplines, including advertising and marketing, intellectual property, real estate, finance, corporate, employment and equalities, commercial contracts and IT, privacy and data protection and dispute resolution.

We work alongside some of the most successful and innovative retail, leisure and hotel businesses, as well as hotel developers and investors, ranging from FTSE 100 companies to smaller, innovative start-ups, and we use that experience to benefit all of our clients.

Clients include: Center Parcs, Crew Clothing, Debenhams, Fat Face, Forest Holidays, Geronimo Inns, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Mucho Mas (Chilango), Argos, Specsavers, The Hut Group, Whitbread (Premier Inn) and Young & Co's Brewery.

How we can help:

Retail & leisure

Advertising and marketing - We clear price promotional strategies to manage the risk of regulatory issues, challenge competitors on their comparative advertising, defend retailers against ASA complaints and negotiate local and international contracts with advertising agencies and celebrities. 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.

With our privacy and data protection specialists, we advise all types of retailer and leisure operators on their use of data to improve personalisation and customer engagement.

Our commercial contracts and IT lawyers have worked on some of the most exciting commercial and technology projects in the retail sector including the strategic agreement between Argos and eBay to establish and deliver a 'fulfilment marketplace'. By combining their sector knowledge with their commercial and IT expertise our lawyers are well placed to advise retail brands including Marks & Spencer. Our breadth of capability ranges from advising on high volume routine contracts, to property management contracts for retail chains, to IT and supply chain contracts.

Intellectual property (IP) - 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's reputation and its value to thrive.

Our 40-strong specialist UK 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.

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 acting for both tenants and landlords means we understand their strategic objectives and any potential hurdles to reaching agreement. So your route to achieving a satisfactory deal is smoother, more timely and cost effective.

Corporate - 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 lawyers can help you raise funds for existing and new chains; we advise investors and founding families on realising their investments often through sale, listing or equity release; and on acquiring existing portfolios consisting of both bricks and mortar and on-line presences. The team is also one of the few who assist UK retail and leisure businesses in entering Asian markets through strategic joint ventures.

Construction and Engineering - As one of the UK's leading construction and engineering teams, our lawyers handle all aspects and types of construction and engineering projects. This depth and breadth of experience means we can help clients to quickly secure their objectives and avoid potential pitfalls.

Our team includes lawyers who specialise in advising clients in the retail sector, including some of the biggest names in retail. Whatever your project, they will guide and support you through the process, including advice on procurement, due diligence and contract negotiations. At every stage they will work as part of your team to obtain the best possible deal, while managing the competing demands of your business. The team's experience includes advising on store acquisitions; the fit-out of both multiple stores and one-off, bespoke head offices; and the construction and automation of distribution centres, all complemented by being advisers to various shopping centre developers.

Our employment and equalities lawyers advise retailers on everything from contract and policy reviews, equal pay and TUPE through to assisting with employee investigations and successfully defending Tribunal claims using its award-winning methodology. The team, one of the biggest in the UK, also delivers bespoke training (classroom based or through its unique 'gamified' e-learning tool which has been shortlisted for two industry innovation awards).

Gowling WLG attended Retail Week Live on 8th-9th March 2017 at the O2, London, and was a key sponsor of Retail Week's General Counsel Summit on 14th June 2017 at the Ham Yard Hotel, London. It is also an active member of the Leisure Property Forum.

Dispute Resolution - If something goes wrong, or a dispute arises, you want the best possible solution for your business. That doesn't necessarily mean you want to fight, or even just to win a fight. Frequently, preservation is better than cure - for example, many contracts take time to place, so seeing them disappear on an early termination is not always good news. Our first priority in any 'dispute' is always to understand your commercial objectives. After assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your case, we'll work with you to pick a strategy that best gets you to where you want to be.

Regulatory Crime - Regulatory investigations lead to business interruption, adverse publicity, lost management time, cost and, potentially, fines (or even prison). Our team will invest time getting to know you and your business operations, to help prevent regulatory breaches where possible through regular advice, reviews and updating of policies, but also so we can hit the ground running if something happens.

Key contacts: Chris Hunt, Sally Mewies, Richard Smith, Joe Morris


To develop, operate and manage a large hotel portfolio you need lawyers who understand your world, and the many stakeholders involved in hotel acquisition and development projects. As a leading advisor in the hotels industry, our cross-disciplinary hotels team works closely alongside owners, investors, developers, funders and managers, on hotel acquisition and development projects around the globe. Advising on some of the highest profile hotel transactions with luxury and world-renowned brands gives us the experience and know-how needed to support you.

Drawing on the substantial expertise of our leading corporate, finance and real estate practices, together with our specialists in construction, tax, planning, environment, employment and property litigation; our team has acted on three of the top 10 single-asset deals by size in the UK in recent years.

M&A and Operational - Our corporate lawyers advise on acquisitions and disposals of hotels, luxury resorts and developments; hotel management agreements; franchise agreements and direct agreements/non-disturbance agreements, working with some of the best known brands in the market.

Our specialist Hotel Finance lawyers advise on UK, EU and international transactions, including: acquisition and development financing facilities for full-service luxury hotels and other trophy assets, financing of hotel portfolios and mezzanine financing and equity JV arrangements for hotel projects. We also specialise in restructuring debt finance arrangements secured on hotel assets, and on loan-to-own strategies, non-disturbance/duty of care and direct agreements.

And again in Real Estate we advise on all aspects of property acquisition and disposal: development agreements, planning issues and construction matters; operating leases; concessions, licences, car parking and other on-going property management issues and transactions; and landlord, operator and tenant disputes.

Gowling WLG attended the Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin in March 2017, AHIC in Dubai in April 2017, and the NYU International Hospitality Conference in New York in June 2017. Later this year we'll be at the Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester and AHIC in Rwanda.

Key contacts: Alexandra Plain (Paris), Mike Lacey, Jon Lent, Nick Turner

Key Contact

Christopher Hunt
Christopher Hunt

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