Think SA has enough retail space? Top property exec says there's room for more. She talks about developments, personal property investments.
With new retail developments continuing to pop up across the country, consumers are spoilt for choice as to where to spend most of their time shopping and perhaps socialising. But that hasn't deterred relative newcomer Really Exciting Developments (Red) from focusing entirely on retail developments. That, it says, is where the strengths of its founders lie.
Red is a retail and commercial property development company, with five directors who share a strong passion for retail property developments.
Nicky Butler, 55, (pictured) is one of the directors of Red Holdings (Pty) Ltd launched in March this year. She is responsible for developments.
She was selected as a finalist for the Woman's Property Network (WPN) Five Star Woman Award for her outstanding achievements and expertise in the commercial property sector.
The company resulted from discussions among two of its directors, Paul Simpson, the chief executive officer, and Sidney Bernic - in property industry for 27 years and former head of real estate at Woolworths.
Butler is the only woman in the management team of five directors and is responsible for property developments.
There is also Warren Rovelli, the financial director previously executive head of acquisitions and developments at Billion Property Group and Herman Grobler a director and entrepreneur who has vast knowledge in retail property development.
In North Riding, north of Johannesburg, Red has launched a mixed use R3bn development project.
This development is set to push design boundaries while encompassing the green building initiative and the sustainability of the development, says the company.
Simpson said, over the past 14 years, there has been a major growth in the number of customers who look for more than shopping at centres but the social experience as well.
Other projects in the pipeline include office developments along William Nicol Drive and Hartebeespoort Dam and a retail development in Maputo, Mozambique - and that is all in six months since Red was formed.
Simpson said the designs will include giving various tenants in developments quality spaces for their specific needs and getting a good understanding of people likely to shop in that area
The designs will take into consideration the fact that the huge social space will be immersed in the lives of people living, working and playing in the area - and that's how different Red would be from other retail developments, he said.
Back to Butler. Only the second woman to do so at the time, Butler qualified for a Bsc Building Degree in 1975 and has been involved in the property industry since.
Building with the boys
"As a young girl I loved Leonardo Da Vinci's works and his designs and inventions always intrigued me, so switching from a two-week stint doing medicine to the architectural faculty was a natural choice," she said.
At the time she chose the building course, women were a rarity in the sector.
Now, more women are finding themselves at the upper echelons of property companies.
When not hard at work with development projects, she focuses on property acquisitions of her own.
With a number of properties in her portfolio, excluding the house she lives in, she said she believes it's never too early or late to invest in property.
In fact, she said that if at all possible an individual should always try and buy rather than rent the homes they live in.
"Now is an especially good time to invest in the right property," she said, enthusiastically.
She has had concerns about overextending with every property investment ever made, but has never had any regrets thanks to conducting thorough investigations beforehand.
Love of real estate
Having acquired five residential investment properties, she said she would never buy in a place she didn't know well, as location also determines the type of tenants who are likely to be attracted to that property - a huge factor in mitigating risk.
She said investing in property is a huge decision for many people and taking the plunge into property investment requires that an investor does a lot of homework to find a suitable property at the affordable price.
Butler is fortunate to be with Red at a time when the retail market shows a steady growth despite a slowdown in residential market.
Notwithstanding the current economic climate, she believes that there is still room for development of retail space in specific areas to accommodate the burgeoning population.
Prior to joining Red as director, Butler was managing director of Matrix Properties, which focused on property acquisitions and developments in retail, commercial and industrial and recently acquired experience in residential market.
Her direct involvement in the development of Fourways Mall in Johannesburg has been a major highlight of her career.
Butler was development director and her responsibilities at the time of the Fourways development included land acquisition, design and development, selection of tenants and the management of the completed centre.
Her career started in 1975 at Dorbyl Projects in Germiston, Gauteng, as a projects' engineer designing offices and gained experience which has now benefited her as an all round property practitioner.
A member of the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa), WPN and South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC), Butler said interactions with others in the property sector is key in setting new goals and learning new trends.
On the personal front, Butler prefers a quiet life with her husband at their home in Hartebeespoort Dam.
"I enjoy the open space living at the dam with its incredible beauty and tranquillity." said Butler.
Holidays are mostly spent with their children at their hideaway spot in Hermanus.
Among the lessons learnt, Butler said: one is never too old to learn and must not be afraid to ask when in doubt or do not know.
"No matter where you are in your career you can still learn from other people," she said.