Around the time of the millennium it was Starbucks. Back then, if an estate agent was instructed to sell a home within a bean’s throw of one of the coffee brand’s new locations, it was mentioned in the property details – a sign of an area with house prices as frothy as a latte.
A decade later, it was Waitrose. Savills said homes near one could carry a 25 per cent premium, but then the supermarket chain expanded to 350 stores including some at motorway service stations, making them less of a draw to the aspirational house buyer. Now another brand – celebrating its 100th birthday – is becoming the benchmark of a fashionable area: The Ivy.
Once a name reserved solely for the restaurant in London’s West End, beloved by celebrities and the media, The Ivy has now put its name to a small but growing collection of cafés, grills and brasseries in London suburbs and the affluent Home Counties commuter towns. Caprice Holdings, the company behind the collection, says: “Each restaurant has been designed to deliver the memorable experience that is synonymous with The Ivy’s unique style, and extend the magic of our celebrated venue to hand-picked locations across London and the UK.”
Quite aside from increasing consumption of Ivy specialities such as burrata with asparagus and truffle chicken brioche rolls, one consequence of these new restaurants and cafés is that local estate agents are suddenly rewriting their brochures to show off the new brand.
“Many of our buyers have moved from London and abroad, so having an internationally recognised eatery demonstrates that Cobham is an upmarket area that can offer a similar lifestyle,” says Nathaniel Bracegirdle of Knight Frank’s office in the Surrey commuter town, where an Ivy brasserie opened on Thursday.
Later this year an Ivy café is set to open near London’s Tower Bridge. “We include it in the area pitch to potential clients when in viewings,” says James Crowley, a Knight Frank negotiator. And Matthew Hahn from the same agency’s Richmond office – near another Ivy opening this summer – agrees: “I’m sure we’ll use it as a selling point for potential buyers as it’s perceived as upmarket and exclusive and in turn endorses the area.”
Knight Frank has calculated five-year price movements of homes in areas where Ivy cafés or brasseries have recently opened or are about to launch. Predictably, the price rises are bigger than the fattest club sandwich. Increases between May 2012 and May 2017 range from 31 per cent in St John’s Wood, north-west London, to more than 60 per cent in Richmond, the City and Tower Bridge.
Properties in Cobham have grown in value by 33 per cent over the last five years, while prices in Marlow in Buckinghamshire, where The Ivy Marlow Garden opened this week, have increased by 49 per cent.
If you dismiss this as estate agency whimsy, think again. While many of us are more concerned with raising a deposit and securing a mortgage when purchasing a home, other buyers are not shy about insisting on being near the best brands.
“With the new Soho Farmhouse private club branch opening in Great Tew, Oxfordshire, a lot of potential buyers for country homes want to be no more than a 20 to 30-minute drive away,” says Camilla Dell of Black Brick, a buying agency for high-end clients.
Philip Harvey of Property Vision, says a perfect combination of brands for demanding clients could include a Sweaty Betty sportswear shop, a Juice Smith juice bar and boutique cinemas such as the Everyman and Curzon.
“Once upon a time a Waitrose would have been top of a buyer’s wishlist,” Harvey says. “Now, Londoners moving out have far higher expectations from their local high street.” But not everyone is convinced, however. Some sense a rebellion against the onward march of global retailers hand-in-hand with growing house prices.
“These brands need to be careful,” says Charlie Wells of the buying agency Prime Purchase. “Daylesford Organic, for example, has become very touristy. People want locally-sourced produce rather than paying an arm and a leg because it’s sold by a well-known brand.”
Buyers are attracted by the cumulative effect of these clusters of shops and restaurants, rather than the individual brands, says Simon Barnes of the property consultancy H Barnes & Co.
“With an increasing reliance on home delivery, what has become more appealing to buyers are the London villages – notably Marylebone, Hampstead, Highgate, Barnes and Wimbledon,” he says. “They have strategic plans to focus on independent retailers, rather than predictable brands.”
This might be particularly true of the first-time buyer market. Research by Savills shows that younger diners who are under 34 are particularly quick to try new restaurant brands when they open locally compared to older customers.
They then share reviews on social media, which is considered a marketing boon for casual dining names such as Shake Shack and Meat Liquor, and, no doubt, the more upmarket cafés and brasseries of The Ivy Collection.
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