By Eduardo Ceballos
The shopping centers and retail parks sector has always been one of the most active and successful in Spain. In 2019, shopping centers and retail parks received over 1.9 billion visits (1.6% more than in 2018), recorded sales of €46.1 billion (1% more than in 2018), and they created more than 740,000 jobs, 46% directly and 54% indirectly. The shopping center and retail park industry contributes €8.4 billion to the GDP, which is 0.7% of Spain’s total GDP and 5.7% of the services sector’s GDP. This data pointed to a year 2020 of positive results until the outbreak of the Covid-19 health crisis. Unfortunately, the sudden halt has had an enormous impact in our sector, which is one of the most affected by it.
Being aware from the very beginning of the depth, seriousness and complexity of this unprecedented crisis, the Spanish Association of Shopping Centres and Retail Parks (AECC) began working on being the primary voice of the retail industry, representing and helping our sector with several initiatives. Thus, a series of fiscal, labo,r and activity reactivation measures have been proposed to the Spanish Government to help us achieve the desired recovery, along with guidelines for hygienic-sanitary recommendations for the reopening of the centers and retail parks to ensure that all companies in the sector comply with the highest hygienic standards.
On June 8, 2020, the 568 shopping centers in our country have finally been able to operate after the shutdown of almost all activities on March 13 and 14, 2020 (except for essential-need stores), and after some autonomous regions began to reopen on May 25, 2020. We can affirm now that the return is happening smoothly and in an absolutely normal way, respecting the capacity and social distancing limitations imposed by the government at all times and in optimum hygiene and safety conditions, thus demonstrating the professionalism and know-how of our industry. With an absolute focus on customers, as it could not be in any other way, we have dedicated resources and efforts to guarantee their tranquility and safety when returning to shopping centers.
During the first days of the reopening, additional efforts have been made to reinforce cleaning and security measures as well as thorough disinfections. Also, client communication channels have been intensified to deliver all safety messages clearly. The necessary technology to monitor shopping center’s capacity has also been put into effect. Although it is too early to determine changes in customer behavior, our preliminary assessment after the first few weeks of the reopening is optimistic in terms of sales and inflows. We have noticed that consumers are eager to head back to shopping centers to do some shopping. All leisure offers will also be activated soon, since leisure is a concept for which we have worked so hard and so long as it encourages socialization within shopping centers, reinforces our identity as meeting points and will allow us to return to the activity levels prior to this crisis soon.
We need to continue working to ensure that our sector responds to these new demands with the full incorporation of technology in shopping centers and retail parks in a way that will allow us maintain our position as key places in both, the consumer’s mind and the country’s economy.