Retail & Commercial – Tony Houston profile

Tony Houston is Group Director of Retail and Commercial, and Partner at ThomsonAdsett. With over 40 years’ experience working in retail architecture, Tony is one of Australia’s leading retail architects. He’s completed more than 200 projects working with major retailers and developers including GPT, Mirvac, Stockland, Viva/Shell, Bunnings, Kmart, Coles and Woolworths.

Tony and his team are experts at refreshing and expanding sub-regional shopping centres, with recent examples including Australia Fair, Aspley Hypermarket and Toombul Shopping Centre.

Here, Tony shares some of the common issues retail clients face and the strategies his team has put in place to overcome them.

What are some of the common issues clients come to you with? 

Many clients receive design advice from sources who have minimal experience in the sector and provide speculative work to secure projects. This usually leads to problems during a project’s leasing and building stages.

Retail and commercial centres sometimes struggle to refresh and expand their developments in a cost effective way, while maintaining financial sustainability for the future. We’ve delivered more than 450 retail projects over 46 years of practice.  This means we have the ability to draw on our learnings, and apply them to each and every future project to assure clients of their project’s feasibility. Furthermore, we mitigate our client’s risk as much as possible. Our vision is that every project has smart ideas, a quick response and efficient delivery.

How do you help clients gain insight into the design of their projects?

We use a design ‘storybook’ approach to establish a value proposition for the work. This storybook establishes parameters around the theming, look and feel, architectural language and relevant images from other similar projects, making it easy for clients to visualise the outcome of their own projects.

Our masterplans are clear and simple, and quickly establish a development’s potential, to assist early tenant/council negotiations and feasibility analysis.

We also use photo realistic 3D renders and flythroughs, and Revit modelling to explain site massing, building bulk/scale and the buildability of a project. 

What strategies has the retail and commercial team put in place to better service clients?

Our team’s focus is on further specialisation and outstanding delivery for our clients.

To achieve this, we’re increasingly integrating ThomsonAdsett’s expertise in other longstanding sectors, into our retail and commercial projects. Examples include drawing on seniors living, education and health experience. This adds value to mixed developments, which we’re seeing as a major emerging sector in the marketplace.

Our ‘one team’ approach across all of our national and international offices means our clients receive a broad network of expertise, while working directly with their project architect.

We work with internationally renowned retail specialists. This further strengthens our ability to deliver world’s best practice to our valued clients.

In collaboration with other internationally renowned concept designers, we have produced exceptional design outcomes on recent major projects. These collaborations are allowing us to further focus on design development, build-ability and delivery.

We also collaborate closely with builders to provide value management services during the tender period. This ensures our clients receive the best possible price for the most accurate scope of work.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’re working on dozens of exciting projects. We’ve started extending the range of our project typologies to include boutique niches, such as service centres that combine fuel, car wash, food and retail services.

We’re constantly engaging with major retailers on the roll outs of their new stores and refits, all the while working together on maintaining their retail standards and operational requirements.

Our retail and commercial team is agile, and is constantly adapting to our client’s needs and market forces.