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PHOENIX-Despite a retail market that local branch manager Tom Johnston describes as “dead,” Cushman & Wakefield of Arizona Inc. has opted to create a retail properties group in its local office. The move means the office now provides full-service coverage of all commercial property sectors.

“It’s been extremely tough for retail here,” says Johnston, a senior managing director for Cushman. “All the commercial markets are tough right now, but that one has really been affected. But this was more about servicing our existing clients than the market conditions. Prior to this, we were referring clients to boutique firms we did business with. Now that we have people in house, it becomes more seamless.”

In addition, Johnston tells GlobeSt.com, for the past several years, the company has focused on growing its retail presence throughout the US. Phoenix is only the latest office to climb aboard the bandwagon. “We have every other specialization Cushman & Wakefield offers,” he points out. “We needed to round out our services.”

The new retail team is headed by C&W director Alfred Hackbarth, an experienced retail investment broker who joined the firm a year ago. He is joined by leasing associate Summer Davis and marketing coordinator Christopher Nord. Davis, who has four years of experience in commercial and corporate real estate, most recently handled the Northwest and upper Midwest real estate portfolio for Charming Shoppes Inc. Nord, a licensed real estate broker, has two years of experience in the field.

According to Johnston, the decision to form the new group meshes well with C&W’s December acquisition of San Diego-based Burnham Real Estate, which had one of Southern California’s strongest retail practices. The C&W exec says many clients who came with the Burnham brokers also own or lease retail space in Arizona. “There’s a lot of crossover,” he says. “The relationships are helping us uncover and pursue opportunities from both an investment and leasing standpoint.”

Johnston says he would like to see the retail team grow to six members with the gradual addition of a second investment broker and two more leasing agents. He also would like to see the overall office expand from its current roster of 44 brokers to a total of about 50. “That’s my target,” he says. “It’s enough people to give us thorough coverage, but not so big that agents start cannibalizing one another’s business. We’re very strategic in our hires as far as geography and project type and I think we have one of most talented broker pools in the Valley.”

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