On May 11, 2022, the Austrian retail and retail real estate industry came together at the 24th RegioPlan Retail Symposium. The event highlighted the challenges and opportunities of retail in turbulent times, provided new perspectives, and offered a valuable platform to connect. The need to come together is even more important in times of crisis. This was also shown by the record number of participants with almost 380 registrations. The program was divided into three main topics:
1. RETAIL 4.0 – CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT
The industry is undergoing a massive upheaval, and online trading is a big reason for this. At the same time, there is a lot of optimism, according to Anthony Crow, Head of Retail, OTTO Immobilien GmbH, for example. The number of newly opened spaces is increasing. The trends move towards reducing space, but also towards top locations and new shop concepts. Crow believes in the future of brick-and-mortar retail. However, in order to ensure the future viability of stationary retail, new concepts such as the hybrid shopping experience, innovative features, or the individualization of products are needed. Paul Douay, Director of Operations Austria & Germany at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, also emphasized on the importance of linking offline and online: “Consumers no longer want shopping centers! They want places where you can experience something.” The distinguishing feature between online and offline is experience and people – on this, the industry experts all agreed. Therefore, Christoph Bründl, Managing Director, Bründl Sports Group, reported on his new experience flagship store in the middle of the mountains. Jan Janko, Expansion Manager, IKEA Austria GmbH, argued that the future lies in new shop concepts and a clear focus on customer service.
2. INVESTMENT – NEW APPROACHES FOR RETAIL REAL ESTATE
“Retail goes Green“ – that’s the motto of the industries. An investment in sustainability may be more expensive in the short term, but always pays off in the long term, said Christoph Andexlinger, COO SES Spar European Shopping Centers. Alexander Rössler, Head of Group Development at IMMOFINANZ AG, presented the “On Top Living” concept. It combines retail and apartments with affordable rental prices and attractive returns. Therefore, it meets ESG criteria but is also an example for the ongoing mixed-use trend within the industry. The discussions that followed showed that mixed-use is indeed a guarantee for success, but the message has not yet arrived in the investor’s world.
3. VISION – A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE
The third part of the event focused on the future of retail. Norbert Hillinger, futurologist & Senior Associate at Themis Foresight GmbH, showed what is already possible in the retail world with innovative examples. The message: The adaptation periods for new technologies are much shorter today than they used to be. The participants in the Elevator Pitch under the title “90 Seconds to Fame: Grocery retailers and restaurateurs on the rise” demonstrated how future-oriented retail concepts are developed. Martin Riester, Head of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Fraunhofer Austria Research GmbH, devoted his keynote speech to the question “Artificial intelligence in retail: is it still possible without it?” One thing became clear: With the help of machine intelligence, it can be possible to make logistics more sustainable and efficient on with the appropriate use of data. The conclusion of this third part: Stationary retail needs to become more attractive. Otherwise, retailers will lose more customers to online retail. There are enough possibilities and solutions, as long as you remain open to new ideas.