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credit: ACROSS
credit: ACROSS

Level Of Demand: The Level Of Excellence We Should Strive For Today And Tomorrow

Originally developed solely to meet the daily needs of consumers, shopping centers quickly became an asset class. The model worked very well for a long time, but as consumer behavior has changed, so have the requirements of tenants, operators and investors. The obvious task to satisfy customers, business partners and stakeholders is: Get your customers to return to your locations. Clear differentiation and positioning as well as a clear focus on people are crucial.

In market surveys, consumers complain that shopping centers look the same everywhere, that they lack uniqueness, that the product range is “boring”, that there are no positive surprises, and that the brand mix consists exclusively of the big well-known (fashion) brands. It is more than understandable that shopping centers need strong brand partners. The question is: How can this vicious circle be successfully broken? What do shopping center operators and developers need in order to create and operate unique places, with the aim of making all stakeholders – customers, center management, retailers and investors – happy? In short: Let’s talk about “the level of demand”!

According to Klaus Striebich, Managing Director of RaRE Advise and Head of the Advisory Board, it’s time to press the reset button. “As in many other areas, we sometimes lose the right focus or simply have a different perspective when we become more and more specialized or individualized in our daily work.” At the Advisory Board meeting in Cannes during the last MAPIC event, he sparked a discussion about the “level of demand” in the placemaking industry, which quickly became very passionate, critical, and even emotional.

Questions posed included: What is your purpose? Are you a place for needs or a place for experience? Is your positioning really clear? When and where does the customer journey begin and what does that mean for my retail destination? Which formats are suitable for my center? There are no quick answers, but the discussion is extremely important, which is why it is also the cover story of this issue of ACROSS. There are four particular aspects that we have highlighted.

Know Your Purpose

Steffen Hofmann introduces us to investors’ views of the market and the various retail properties. We spoke with industry leaders, such as SES, about what clear positioning should look like and learned why growing footfall was not only good news, but also necessary news. Portland Design and Ingka Centres show us innovative approaches that can be used to avoid being perceived as boring.

Educate Your Customer

One very self-critical comment made during the discussion in Cannes was that brick-and-mortar retail had largely forgotten how to explain to customers why they should visit stores in the first place. There is an urgent need to create “strong reasons” to motivate customers, but what could those strong reasons be? Ben Chesser, CEO of Coniq, explains what a retail location needs to do to get back on the consumer’s radar. Will Odwarka highlights the struggle between what is right and what is reasonable, but also why, in an ever-growing and competitive landscape, it is crucial to establish distinguishing factors that are recognizable and to embrace them wholeheartedly.

Know Your Catchment Area

Ultimately, the placemaking industry is always determined by the customer; therefore, there is one question that must be asked: What is actually needed in the catchment area? In the past, a catchment area was defined purely geographically. Today, people can buy anything anywhere and go wherever they want. Those changes in habits have led to new approaches in market research, and technology, in particular, artificial intelligence, has enabled completely new insights, as James Miller, Director of Pragma, and Oliver Zügel, Member of the Board at evAI, explain in their guest articles.

Treat Your People Right

Last but not least: The role that people play at the point of sale is undoubtedly crucial to the success of retail and the customer experience in order to differentiate it from online retail. However, the labor market situation in the European retail sector has continued to worsen. Many employees consider retail to be unattractive – the wages are too low, the working hours are not family-friendly, and the treatment by customers and superiors leaves a lot to be desired. For employees, acknowledgement and appreciation are more important than ever. In her guest article, Manuela Lindlbauer, Owner of Lindlpower Personalmanagement, explains why and what solutions are needed to make retail an attractive place to work again.

The discussion that began in Cannes did not end there; it has only just begun. Feel free to join the discussion!


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