ACROSS: SES has implemented and finalized numerous projects in recent months. What were the recent entrepreneurial highlights in your view?
Marcus Wild: The opening of the Huma Eleven center in Vienna was an outstanding event. We also opened Fischapark in Wiener Neustadt, which is certainly one of our biggest projects in recent years. We expanded it from a retail park-like shopping destination to a fantastic shopping center more than twice the size. This comprised many innovations, including in terms of the shop partners. In a way, Wiener Neustadt can be seen as the capital of southern Lower Austria. Our location there is ideal, even when taking into account that Vienna is expanding southward.
Just prior to that, we opened the new shopping quarter Weberzeile in Ried (Upper Austria) and brought so-called classics of large-area retail like H&M and Media Markt to the Innviertel. Ried has always been a shopping destination, but Weberzeile has returned retail to the city center, with its location in the middle of downtown.
One of our distinguishing features in general is that almost all SES centers, with very few exceptions, are community centers or are situated directly in the city center. Completing three large openings in less than nine months was quite a challenge, however.
In each of our new centers, we put a lot of emphasis on food&beverages. Foodservice plays an ever more important role in our centers. We can also look back on some brand premieres for Austria, like that of the Varner Group’s Dressman.
ACROSS: You are already planning the next project in Slovenia, the Siska shopping center in Ljubljana. How do you currently assess the Slovenian market?
Wild: SES is the market leader in Slovenia. We operate four centers there and had about 23 million customers and revenue growth of over 3% in the previous year. In Siska itself, we soon want to add about 32,000 square meters. The Siska shopping center will be home to around 90 shops and more than 1,600 parking spaces. The opening is planned for 2019. We already have all the permits.
The center’s biggest distinguishing feature is its location, probably the best in all of Ljubljana. It is in the northern part of the capital, directly next to the beltway and enjoys great visibility. The district in which the center is located is densely populated. We’re creating a great community center there with significant super-regional appeal
ACROSS: How saturated is the Slovenian market in terms of shopping centers?
Wild: I believe that we are dealing with a very mature market. Of course there is potential for refurbishment. We ourselves have modernized most of our centers in recent years.
ACROSS: You are also working on a project in Bolzano, Italy.
Wild: We’re developing a center with around 100 stores and 2,000 parking spaces in the southern industrial area. Customers know our Interspar market there very well and it’s extremely successful and shows that the location has excellent potential for hosting a super-regional shopping center. The location is right next to the highway exit headed south. There are around 700,000 inhabitants within 50 to 60 minutes and 260,000 within 30 minutes. It is also an outstanding tourism location with good public transport links. I personally think the center has the potential to become one of our best.
ACROSS: Does this mean you do not currently aspire to start new projects outside your core markets?
Wild: Correct, at least not any that we could discuss at this point.