In 2019, before the corona crisis, ACROSS – The European Placemaking Magazine” held the ACROS Retail Talks twice: once in Vienna and once in Cannes. The virus pushed this event series onto the internet, with its adapted name ACROSS Retail Talks Online. This event already took place for the third time in this format via Zoom on August 26, 2020 at 5pm CET. The theme was “How to Shape the Future” and focused on the industry’s current challenges.
ACROSS publisher Reinhard Winiwarter welcomed the numerous participants right on time and handed over the reins to Klaus Striebich, Managing Director of RaRE Advise and member of the ACROSS Advisory Board. He then introduced the online panel in alphabetical order: Rüdiger Dany (COO of Multi), Bjørn Bach Eriksen (COO of Sostrene Grenes), Joanna Fisher (Managing Director Center Management at ECE and Member of the ACROSS Advisory Board), Milen Gentchev (Global Operations Manager at Ingka Centres), Lucia Marcuzzo (Vice President Central Europe at Levi Strauss & Co), as well as Cristina Moreira dos Santos (Managing Director Property Management Iberia at Sonae Sierra). Striebich informed the virtual audience – who joined the event for free – that they could ask question by using the chat feature. And this opportunity was used very frequently throughout the event.
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The discussion comprised three topic areas and started with “The Crisis and Its Effects”. In this context, Dany talked about how difficult negotiations with tenant can become. However, one could benefit from these experiences and the necessary mutual understanding in the future. He emphasized that the industry has been reinventing itself consistently from the very beginning. Covid-19 is more of an accelerant. Dany believes that market places are the model for future success. After all, people still want to meet their friends and families – in spite or even more so because of the virus. Bach Eriksen also agreed that establishing market places is the way to go. In his opinion, the focus has to be on the shopping experience. He believes that this is the way to entice away the younger generation from their PCs, notebooks, and smartphones at home.
The second topic focused on “The Dealers / Brands”, also whether there will be any foreseeable changes in the sector mix or whether there are new ways to acquire and retain customers and tenants. Marcuzzo talked about a store that Levi Strauss opened recently in Frankfurt. One aspect, which the jeans brand highlights, is personalization. They have their own denim manufactures, since finding perfectly fitting jeans is not easy. Said manufactures also repair jeans. Moreira dos Santos emphasized that the virus makes virtually daily changes necessary, and that is reflected in the flexible measures – e.g. masks or no masks – as well as the people’s respective behaviors. The safety of customers and staff must be the highest priority in malls. Especially the sociable Spaniards want to see each other again in shopping centers, where tenants with outdoor areas have a clear advantage.
Digital malls on the rise
The third topic area was called “A Look into the Future” and tackled the ever-present theme of digitalization. Fisher said that ECE is enhancing its Digital Mall concept. It was designed as an online product search tool that displays the availability of products from participating retailers at ECE shopping centers online, allowing customers to check whether a desired product is available at the center via the center’s website or app. This way, the needs of local residents could be met very well; the malls fulfill their roles as local anchors. Fisher urged retailers to participate in projects like digital malls. They are a decisive factor for success. Of course, taking a look into the future must also include the already-mentioned growing portfolio of malls beyond conventional shopping options. In this context, Gentchev emphasized that it is essential to meet the needs of communities. The goal is to create meeting places that offer more than just shopping options. Co-working, facilities for sports, etc. become increasingly important. In that regard, Gentchev referred to Ingka Centres’ Mega Rostov-on-Don’s 20,000-sq m outside space. Over 1,800 trees and bushes have been planted within walkways providing the surrounding community with a new green area.
The next ACROSS Retail Talks about exciting, European topics are being planned right now. We will keep you posted.