May 15, 2015

Retail warehousing in Europe has evolved rapidly as a trading format over the last 30+ years and now accounts for a significant share of both retail floor space and sales volumes. Although retail warehouses were initially developed to service the needs of “bulky goods” retailers, the attraction to shoppers of easy access and convenient free parking soon registered with other retailer groups. Increasingly, fashion, footwear, sports, and household goods retailers have committed to out-of-town formats where planning conditions permit.

The concept of what constitutes a good “brand” is not always clear in a retail context, let alone within the shopping center world. It is tempting, and indeed quite common, simply to refer to a brand by name – the world’s great brands such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Louis Vuitton etc. are instantly recognized by name. But what’s in a name and what makes a great brand?

The United Nations has designated 2015 as the International Year of Light, a global initiative to raise awareness of the importance of light and light–based technologies. The campaign (www.light2015.org) aims to highlight how dependent we are on light for our very existence and human development and to explore how science and lighting technology have combined to create solutions in energy, education, and health.

Customers are constantly being offered more opportunities and methods for consumption, both online and offline. Every retailer has to recognize and follow this trend in order to avoid losing out to the competition. We must find a combination of e-commerce, mobile apps or social media, and traditional retail stores. Today’s end consumers are digitally networked at all times and around 63% of buyers use devices like mobile phones and tablets to learn about products in advance or to buy them online.

At the recent opening of a shopping center that I attended, one of the guests remarked: “Let’s be honest, it’s turned out beautifully, but no one here needed the center!” Conversation came to a brief stop, followed by a rapid return, owing to the joyous occasion and the presence of the owner, to the small talk that is usual at such events.

These days, there has been a large debate about the crises of the bricks-and-mortar trade and the threat from e-commerce.

New projects always involve necessary preparations: We investigate which cities might make sense for us and our customers, look at purchasing power, traffic, development, and infrastructure plans for each region, etc., and define the most appropriate place for a potential retail or logistics property on the basis of the parameters analyzed.

Not a day goes by in which we aren’t warned by crystal-ball-gazing apologists of every type about the demise of over-the-counter retail in general and of shopping centers in particular. Our only experiences of the world will be virtual ones or – at the very least – we will produce everything at home on our own 3-D printers.

Despite an upturn in the UK shopping center market, few UK towns still warrant retail investment and landlords are looking to refurbishment to drive value. With core retailers still focused on larger hubs, secondtier assets need to ensure they are not left behind.

MAPIC, which took place recently in Cannes, showed once again that the rate of new developments has slowed significantly, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, despite a number of outstanding new shopping center projects. In the end, I dealt extensively with the topic of refurbishment. Unfortunately, I see no sustainable development trend that could leverage the potential that is undoubtedly still there in the coming years.

Clad in light, a shopping center’s architecture can become the talk of the town! It is a well-known fact that light always attracts crowds. What’s more, when used theatrically, its power of seduction increases significantly. These are the findings of the experts from the Luci Association after studying the economic and cultural benefits of light-based festivals. At a time when shopping centers are upping their game to compete with online sales, the use of new technology, such as interactive platforms, the internet, and smartphones can attract crowds.

The physical store no longer holds a virtual monopoly on retail transactions. Consumers can now shop anytime, anywhere, and are not bound by opening hours or physical proximity.

When the entire European shopping center industry meets in Cannes this year, there will be lots of back patting.

Designer outlets have been one of the most widely misunderstood, but strongest performing, real estate sectors in Europe over the past decade. The strong consumer demand for the outlet sector is reflected in the high levels of footfall, extensive catchment areas, and strong sales densities. In turn, strong occupier demand accounts for very high occupancy rates across quality outlets: Tier 1 assets have an average vacancy rate of just 2%.

The quality of the retail offer presented by a shopping center is the route to leveraging customer preference. It is therefore key to retailer success. The art of leasing is central to our business.

A critical evaluation of the centers which have been added to the European market in recent years prompts the following sobering conclusions: Professionalism in design, construction and operation has generally reached a very high level.

As the retail and shopping center climate continues to heat up across Europe and ongoing investment strongly suggests that the future looks promising, it is vital that we remain clear on what it is that really drives our market: the people within it.

More exquisite, spectacular, and sophisticated: the projects presented by the top players at MAPIC.

Top