Christine Hager is Chairperson of the German Council of Shopping Places. Credit: Michael Zapf

Change, Do Not Proceed As Usual

The REBOOT Column.

By Christine Hager

As early as the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, people gathered together to measure their strength against one another via athletic competition. The winners were ultimately crowned with golden laurel wreaths. The Olympic oath, on which the competition was based, emphasized the spirit of fair play. Interest in sporting events of all kinds has grown exponentially as a result of their rapid dissemination via television and has now, with the help of the Internet, multiplied even further. One would think that this might have brought about a profound social change – that a society that is engaged in and watches so many sporting competitions could show a sportsmanlike, fair spirit elsewhere.

Reboot 2020. Credit: KD Busch

That could not be further from the truth. Nationalism is on the rise in every country, England is leaving the EU, and, as a result, Scotland, Ireland, and the rest of the island are likely to remain deeply divided. If we take a look at our own industry, we in Europe, after the surprising withdrawal of the ICSC body in its decades-long form, are now faced with questionable competition, unclear structures, and, at present, little to no discernible or tangible new common ground. My remarks are, undoubtedly, catch-all observations that do not take deeper efforts, structures, and rationales into account. However, in my opinion, they clearly show what ultimately resonates and what is perceived by society at large.

The further development of opposing positions, however, does not lead to a consensus, to a fair common ground, but rather, as can often be read in historical documents, to distortions of all kinds.

In many respects, the European shopping center and retail property industry is facing the same challenges. Tensions between retailers as tenants and their economic situations, as well as the high demands placed on landlords and owners, often give rise to very difficult situations. Online retail has been growing with virtually no proper regulation and is now gradually merging with brick-and-mortar retail. Demands and requests often collide between landlords and tenants.

I believe that a genuine reboot is needed in many areas of our business. Why? A future in which brick-and-mortar retail is complexly interwoven with online retail to become omnichannel retail requires new rules. There must be rules between landlords and tenants as well as rules among financiers, investors, and owners. Rules between legislators and those who have been entrusted with implementing the laws must also be established. We need a new common ground. Commonality is essential, because at the heart of this changing new retail world lies the customer, who tells us, almost dictates to us, when and where he would like us to fulfill his wishes. In his imagination, there is no either/or, but rather an always and everywhere. This is something that we have to tackle together, as that is the only way to create the ideal, contemporary image of the living marketplace that people want.

Reboot 2020. Credit: KD Busch

However, in order to do this, fair and respectful discourse is required. In this regard, the points of view must be clearly argued without ideological overtones and must be renegotiated jointly by all parties involved. Negotiating to achieve a common result requires every party to abandon its position in order to find and agree on a new common position that is acceptable to everyone. A new beginning can only be accomplished together. It is time for us to engage in more discussion and negotiation and to strive for genuine understanding for the other side rather than believing that we are the only ones who can preserve our old business models in the new world.

About REBOOT Column

On January 22 and 23, 2020, the German Council of Shopping Places (GCSC) kicked off the new year in an unusual way with Reboot in Berlin–an event that included many refreshing innovations as well as interesting talks and workshops. Approximately 400 participants came to the legendary Kosmos for this occasion. Reboot Column highlights and debates burning issues from the perspectives of various experts at this industry event. More information can be found at: www.reboot.berlin

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