Reinhard Winiwarter, Publisher of ACROSS Magazine and Managing Director of sma; Credit: SMA
Opinion

Fresh wind

The European shopping center industry can look back on an exciting year 2016.

BY REINHARD WINIWARTER

Big Data, retail technology, the rise of online retail, the return of retail to city centers, the security of shopping centers, and constantly changing consumer purchasing behavior and how we react to it are just some of the topics that are currently shaping our industry.

In other words, the industry faces serious challenges once again. Overcoming them will not be easy. The industry is of course working hard on meeting the challenges of our time. It is nevertheless fascinating to see how strikingly similar the newly chosen paths taken by the big players are.

We’ve observed that the industry has become ever more tightly networked in recent years. It’s grown into a “small and cozy family.” Everyone knows everyone. The scene forms a self-contained loop and the list of European leaders, almost exclusively experts with years of industry experience, is quite short. You will generally search in vain for top managers from outside the industry.

Of course, progressive community building also serves as an effective means to help identify any industry-related problem areas. Whether it brings us closer to possible innovative and successful solutions is questionable, however. Apparently only a few companies are willing to risk thinking outside the industry box.

Why are newcomers so rare in the upper echelons of the shopping center industry? Why is it that in Europe, in contrast to other continents, the law of almost insurmountable industry boundaries continues to be in effect? Do you have an answer?

Newcomers arrive with refreshing ideas, impetus, and successful models from other industries. They generally promote innovation and progress. Industry changers usually have an unbiased view of things, which sometimes does not exist internally. They have no problem with developing new ideas, trying new business models, or implementing new concepts. They proceed unencumbered onto new assignments and have no consideration for old boys’ networks and relationships. In addition, outsiders often provide good protection against undue conformity.

It obviously still requires a lot of courage to allow outsiders to start careers in the industry. Those who summon such courage, however, could ultimately reap real rewards.

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