Ingka Centres will invest €2 bn to launch new urban mixed-use projects in China, in the cities of Changsha (photo), Shanghai, and Xi’an. Image: Ingka Centres

Getting closer to the customers

The paradigm shift in the retail and retail real estate industry were the key issues at this year’s ICSC European Conference in Barcelona. The industry’s big players adapt their business models to bind current and future customers even closer to stationary retail. Ingka Centres, formerly IKEA Centres, emphasizes new “meeting place” concepts in the hearts of cities as well as increased manpower.

In Barcelona, Ingka Centres has announced the appointment of Vasco Santos as Global Sales and Leasing Manager. Vasco will be responsible for implementing sales and leasing strategies for Ingka Centres new €5.8bn global investment.

“We are responding to the trend of people increasingly living in city centers. Our vision is to be close to the ‘many people’, so this is a logical step to reaching them in a new way.” Vasco Santos, New Global Sales and Leasing Manager at Ingka Centres. Image: Ingka Centres

This will see it embarking on new projects, entering new markets such as India, and upgrading its existing portfolio for a more omni-channel world. A major part of this new strategic vision will see Ingka Centres take its retail-led mixed-use “meeting place” concepts to the hearts of cities for the first time. It plans to invest €3bn in centers in 30 major cities across Europe, Russia, North America, Asia and Oceania, with the first locations to be unveiled in the near future.

Vasco has 23 years of experience in retail and commercial real estate, working with retailers like Decathlon, Intersport, and Parfois. He joined Ingka Centres in 2006 (at the time Inter IKEA Centre Group then IKEA Centres), and most recently led Ingka Centres’ portfolio in Spain, Portugal, and France. As the new strategic vision is rolled out, he will focus on offering new opportunities to Ingka Centres existing partners, but also securing new partnerships that may not have been available for more traditional projects.

Close to the “many people”

Commenting on Ingka Centres city center concepts Vasco said: “We are responding to the trend of people increasingly living in city centers. Our vision is to be close to the ‘many people’, so this is a logical step to reach them in a new way. Our customers’ needs are at the heart of everything we do.” The city center projects will be retail-led but could include residential, hotel, and social community services, depending on local demands. Vasco will be responsible for engaging a wide range of brands from multiple sectors including fashion, F&B, entertainment, leisure and hotel operators. Ingka Centres’ goal is to provide a stage for new brands and concepts that will excite visitors. It is about creating new destinations that bring together great ideas, products, services, people, and emotions, while ensuring that they are high footfall destinations for many years to come.

“We will do this by co-creating our new projects, and those we are upgrading, based on individual community aspirations, local demands and demographics. We are working closely with local brands, associations, local authorities, collectives and entrepreneurs for new partnerships to ensure our projects are purpose-driven and have emotional connections to individual communities–there will be no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Physical retail will never disappear, but we want our destinations to go far beyond shopping and invent the future, providing experiences that can’t be replicated online, and become places people living nearby have multiple reasons to visit,” he continued.

Ingka Centres already operates 44 retail destinations in 14 different markets in Europe, as well as Russia and China. But the new strategic vision will see this increase to 70 locations in existing and new markets by 2025, hosting 1 billion visitors. Enabling international brands to reach millions of consumers around the world.

Entering India

In another major move, Ingka Centres last announced year that it is entering India for the first time, creating places for ‘the many people’ in this market of 1.32bn people. The company is analyzing potential locations in different cities around the country, following IKEA retail, which opened its first store in Hyderabad in 2018. “Again, there will be no one size fits all format for these IKEA anchored destinations–a mix of city center, suburban and edge of town locations are all being considered according to local demographics,” Santos explained.

Ingka Centres is also ramping up investment in China, investing around €2bn to launch three new mixed-use projects in Shanghai, Changsha and Xi’an. Its first urban concept to be delivered will be in Linkong in Shanghai in 2022. Construction has already started on this €1 billion urban meeting place that represents Ingka Group’s largest ever investment in a single project.

But Ingka Centres focus isn’t only on new projects and markets–it is upgrading its existing centers to ensure they also become next generation meeting places. It is undertaking extensive upgrades, extensions and refurbishment programs across its portfolio in Russia and Europe. Incorporating new food and beverage, parks, playgrounds, community and event spaces, flexible workspace, cinemas, ice rinks and a range of other amenities.

Ingka Centres is also embracing the digitalization of retail across its portfolio. It is putting it at the heart of its strategy, ensuring its centers take advantage of a more omni-channel world. Vasco commented: “Digitalization is enabling us and our tenants to better connect with customers and engage with them in a much more personalized way. We are using it to simplify customer journeys with initiatives including payment solutions, loyalty programs, for example, ‘digital mall’ in Wuxi LIVAT (China), community market place for exchanging ideas, line MEGA online (Russia), and hands-free shopping. In simple terms our malls are becoming tech-powered, but still human driven places.”


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