By Christian Recalcati
From July 2021, we started working on relaunching two events that, until 2019, represented two moments of reference for the shopping center industry: the Solal Marketing Awards and the Design and Development Awards.
The Awards program has always been a must-have in the industry calendar; it represented the showcase of the best-practice and the recognition of all companies’ efforts devoted to creating, developing, leasing, and managing shopping places.
Solal Marketing Awards had its critical moment about six months ago with the announcement of the winners of the 2022 edition. It was a huge success thanks to the participation of over 120 top-level projects from all over Europe, which again showed the vitality and the presence of innovative and winning ideas.
On May 15, the award ceremony of the Design and Development Awards was held in the prestigious setting of the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan. Thanks to the collaboration with the Italian National Council of Shopping Centers (CNCC) and the German one (GCSP), an exciting day of study was organized on the main topics of the commercial places industry, which saw the presence of influential opinion leaders and which culminated with the keynote speech by Ibrahim Ibrahim.
Long and meticulous selection process
This was followed by a glamorous gala ceremony, which saw the delivery of the Awards and Commendations to the projects that stood out the most. The selection process of the 18 participants of this edition was long and meticulous. The ten judges first examined all 18 dossiers, evaluating the performances, design, operational and functional aspects, the mix of activities, and attention to the relevant aspects of CSR and ESG.
This process which lasted about 45 days, led to the selection of 12 finalists, divided into the various categories, New Development and Refurbishment & Renovation, and related dimensional sub-categories. In February and March, all the Finalists were visited by groups of jurors who were able to verify everything reported in the presentation dossiers and explore specific aspects relating to strongly characterizing elements of each center.
At the end of the on-site visits, the jury met in a plenary session to define the winners in the various categories. It was a long and intense day, which saw an open confrontation, case by case, between all the judges (except those who, for various reasons, could be in conflict of interest in relation to a specific center) and which, in many cases, it made individual choices difficult
In addition to their indisputable experience and competence, I want to underline the excellent availability of the judges. In many cases, they had to cross Europe, moving from Portugal to Poland or from Slovakia to Spain and passing through Germany in two days to visit the Finalists; I believe this is another sign of the outstanding commitment of the people involved in the organization and the reliability of the Design and Development Awards.
A healthy and creative industry
One of the aims of this edition of the Design and Development Awards was also to show the state of “health” of the industry after difficult years. In this sense, I must say that the signs have been more than positive. Despite the adversities related to the pandemic and the uncertainties of the economy, developers, investors, architects, and consultants have been able to implement projects with modern content that look to the future.
Many hard calls…in many cases, the final choice between an Award and a Commendation was based on details, but I would say that all the Finalists showed elements that can represent benchmarks for the sector. If I had to summarize the main recurring features of the various candidates, I would say that everything starts from a basic element: the centrality of the customers and knowledge of their habits.
From this point, all have been translated into clear choices related to the main offer (definition and review of the ideal mix) and, above all, in the transformation of places to make them increasingly welcoming and functional no longer (only) in relation to shopping itself but for making them places for socializing. In practice, we have observed the growing importance of service activities that are more and more presented in malls (business centers, kindergartens, social, recreational spaces, fitness clubs, …), the redefinition of the F&B offer, increasingly diversified, and incredible care for common areas more and more welcoming and functional as if they were, at times, living rooms.
The Awards are back for good
We are already working to prepare the 2024 edition of the Design and Development Awards. We expect the launch of the new program in September and the celebration of the winners in the spring of 2024 as the critical moment of a conference day that we would like to organize together with one of the national councils of shopping places in Europe.
We hope that the number of applications will increase next year and that the projects presented will continue to provide excellent ideas to all operators in the industry.
The best is (always) yet to come.