WINIWARTER: CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING THE PRISHTINA MALL MANAGEMENT CONTRACT. AT 115,000 SQ M OF GLA, IT IS THE LARGEST SHOPPING CENTER IN THIS REGION. THE SHOPPING CENTER SCENE IN THE WESTERN BALKANS REGION IS STRONGLY CHARACTERIZED BY LOCAL PLAYERS. WHAT WERE THE REASONS BEHIND INVOLVING AN INTERNATIONAL PLAYER LIKE SONAE SIERRA IN THE PROJECT? WHAT WERE YOUR SPECIFIC INPUTS/APPROACHES DURING THE CONSULTING PHASE OF THE PROJECT?
CRISTINA SANTOS: In March of 2022, we were hired to consult on one of Europe’s largest shopping centers, and our partner quickly realized the added value of a deeper collaboration. This commitment serves as proof of Sierra’s pledge to create value in our clients’ assets through our specialized teams, as well as through the growing number of brands that equally rely on our expertise in international management. Sierra began collaborating with Prishtina Mall through consulting services in the areas of leasing and operations, and shortly thereafter, we became responsible for the management of the project. Together with the local team, we made a clear contribution to closing large anchor retail units, which helped attract high-profile tenants and establish the mall as a major retail destination that serves not only Pristina and Kosovo, but the surrounding countries as well. In just eight months, we completed 100 leasing contracts, allowing Prishtina Mall to open with an occupancy rate of 81%. That, however, was not the end of Sierra’s involvement in the project. Our contribution also extended to establishing a Mall Activation strategy, as well as operational processes, by providing a wide range of services that reflect our expertise in property management and our proven track record with our clients.
WINIWARTER: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CENTER’S BRAND MIX?
SANTOS: Prishtina Mall has a diverse and complete commercial offer, featuring over 230 prestigious local and international brands. With more than 3,500 parking spaces and a Gross Leasable Area (GLA) of 115,000 sq m, the shopping center is organized in clusters:
- a kids cluster, which includes B&G, Eureka kids, Mayoral, and Orchestra, as well as the first Hamley’s in Kosovo;
- a premium offer, composed of Boss, Scotch & Soda, Paul & Shark, Hugo, Michael Kors, and Twinset;
- a highly comprehensive sports cluster, featuring Nike, Adidas, Intersport, Sports Vision, Szeer, and Buzz.
- a household/home furnishing cluster, comprising Jysk, Comodita, Luani Home, and Seazon décor.
- and other anchors stores, such as the Inditex group, Terranova, Piazza Italia, Aztech, LC Waikiki, H&M, as well as Mr. Bricolage, marking its debut in the country.
Additionally, the shopping center features the largest indoor entertainment park in Kosovo, HyperActive , covering a dedicated 12,000-square-meter space, making Prishtina Mall an attractive destination for leisure. Hyper-Active offers over 10 attractions, such as gokarts, AR bowling, axe throwing, a laser tag arena, escape rooms, a playground, arcade games, a sports bar, virtual reality, and AR darts. On the same floor, Prishtina Mall also offers the most modern cinema complex in Southeast Europe, CineStar Cinemas. With a wide range of specialties in the field of gastronomy, Prishtina Mall provides its visitors with restaurants, such as PPM and Sarajeeva Steak House, coffee shops, such as Lavazza and Bagolina café, lounges, fast food outlets, such as Burger King and KFC, as well as a modern supermarket, Interex Extra, which boasts a large fresh food offer. This scheme reinforces the confidence that leading brands place in the projects that Sierra manages, supporting its international services growth path, and underscoring its market leadership in the sector.
WINIWARTER: HAVE YOU BROUGHT ANY NEW BRANDS TO THE REGION?
SANTOS: Yes, since Sonae Sierra’s involvement, we have signed around 100 leasing contracts that include well-known “first-time” brands, such as Michael Kors. Our goal is to continue to bring new and exciting brands to the region and to showcase anunparalleled shopping experience. We believe that through constant innovation, we can remain at the forefront of the industry and maintain our commitment to adding value to our clients’ assets, through our specialized teams, as well as through the growing number of brands that equally rely on our expertise in international management.
WINIWARTER: WHAT IS THE CENTER’S CATCHMENT AREA?
SANTOS: The catchment area of the shopping center extends just beyond the region of Pristina, crossing borders to include the neighboring countries. Prishtina Mall is located near major international highway intersections, making it easily accessible to visitors from a wider geographical area. That makes the shopping center a reference point for Kosovo as well as a social hub for visitors from other geographical areas.
WINIWARTER: DO INTERNATIONAL BRANDS ENTER THE MARKET VIA THEIR OWN STORES, OR ARE THEY MORE LIKELY TO USE LOCAL FRANCHISE PARTNERS? HOW DO YOU SEE THE DEVELOPMENT IN THAT RESPECT?
SANTOS: Most international brands typically operate using local franchise partners, but that is not exclusive.
WINIWARTER: SONAE SIERRA HAS BEEN VERY BUSY IN THE AREA OF PROPERTY MANAGEMENT RECENTLY. ASIDE FROM PRISHTINA MALL, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LATEST HIGHLIGHTS?
SANTOS: We are very pleased with the significant increase in new service contracts that were obtained in 2022 and at the beginning of 2023. In addition to reinforcing our position as shopping center and retail park managers and leasing agents, I would like to highlight our entry into new types of assets, such as mixed-use buildings and office leases, as well as the expansion of our business into new countries, and the acquisition of new clients. We have more than 130 assets under management, totaling a GLA of 2.5 million sq m, and comprising more than 700,000 tenant contracts, which reflects our expertise in the area as well as our proven successful results in terms of our clients. Those excellent results are due to the fact that do two things, in particular: We provide services for our own properties, and we provide services for third parties. Since we manage our own assets, we know exactly what we have to deliver, what procedures have to be in place, and what types of teams we need to deliver excellent results. We are willing to provide such excellent service to our own assets as well as to others, including:
- 70 shopping centers, retail parks, and commercial galleries
- 64 other retail formats.
In 2022, we signed:
- 19 new contracts in the property management area
- 12 new leasing contracts
- 42 new contracts in advisory, marketing, and operation services
- Across key countries, such as Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Morocco, and Kosovo, serving different client profiles, from institutional to private investors.
- Atrium Saldanha, an emblematic mixed-use building that is one of the most important office centers in Portugal, featuring a significant retail component.
- Breogán Park, in La Coruña, the largest retail park and mixed-use project under development in Spain, covering more than 60,000 sq m of GLA.
- Europa Galerie, in Saarbrücken, Germany, where we have a portfolio of seven assets under management.
- Aeria Mall in Casablanca stands out, where Sierra is responsible for management and leasing.
- Prishtina Mall, which is the largest shopping center in Southeast Europe. The asset, which is located in the capital of Kosovo, has a GLA of 115,000 sq m and around 235 stores.
At the beginning of 2023, we signed with Chorus Life Bergamo, which is located in Italy and is an integrated urban scheme that focuses on the individual and his/her needs, in which social well-being, economic profit, sustainable architecture, and smart technology are perfectly blended.