ACROSS: MIPIM, the first major international trade fair of 2022 has taken place. Like MAPIC, MIPIM takes place in Cannes. What did you think of this year’s event?
FRANCESCO PUPILLO: A year ago, it seemed as though the world was done with in-person events and that the future of events and conferences was going to be 100% digital. Now, our mindsets are totally different. People are human beings, and human beings need personal interaction. Without a doubt, digital channels are very helpful parts of our lives, but in the end, we need to do business on a face-to-face basis. The current facts and figures have proven this to be true.
ACROSS: What conclusion have you drawn from MIPIM?
PUPILLO: Our group normally organizes 400 events all over the world every year. Last year, we did around 40 events, and we averaged 50% to 60% of pre-pandemic attendance. MIPIM has shown us that the numbers are on the rise. People really want and need to meet with each other. This year’s MIPIM was an extraordinary success. We were expecting a maximum of 15,000 people. In the end, nearly 20,000 people, including all important partners and clients, were present in Cannes. It also confirmed the emotional need that exists with respect to meeting others. However, the key thing that we have learned is that meeting face to face results in the extraordinary and unique acceleration of doing business.
ACROSS: Why are digital tools not enough?
PUPILLO: We can and should use online tools to prepare and discuss deals and arrange meetings. However, when you are discussing huge deals or dealing with very important decision makers, you need a physical touch point. When we were at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we started having digital events like conferences, webinars, and so on. The moment people were allowed to meet again, attendance went down. In the future, I think there will definitely be a growing proportion of digital formats that could help prepare or even close some businesses. In the end, however, the physical part and, consequently, the role of tradeshow as an accelerator of business will remain. The situation is very similar to that of business trips in general: There may be less of a need for personal meetings, but when they occur, they will be more important than ever. That is also in line with the feedback we have been receiving. A number of investors have told us that they need to see and feel where they put their money.
ACROSS: MIPIM 2022 is said to have been significantly less international, with smaller corporate delegations and trade fair stands. Do you see a trend towards downsizing trade fairs from a corporate perspective?
PUPILLO: No, I do not. Of course, there were some challenges because of the particular moment in time at which MIPIM took place. In January, we were not sure whether or not we would be able to have the event. It goes without saying that a return to the 2019 level cannot be achieved within two months. In 2019, there were 26,000 people in attendance; this year, there were almost 20,000. Considering the fact that visitors from some countries are still unable to travel either due to COVID-19-related reasons or the war in Ukraine, that number is impressive.
ACROSS: Let us focus on MAPIC 2022. The trade show is scheduled to take place at the end of November. What is the topic this year?
PUPILLO: The key topic this year will be “People, Planet, and Profit: Navigating retail towards a more “human world”. The ESG criteria and the industry’s effect on the environment, social impacts, and governance are key. Consumers are much more responsible today. They are looking for meaning. It is not just a matter of products and prices. In order to sell something, you have to have values that consumers share. You need to be able to tell a real story. That is important, and, at the same time, the new kind of assets or projects need to be integrated in such a way that they create a social impact on the communities around them. That is not optional. Today, no investor can put money into an asset that is not sustainable. The first message on the website is about ESG, as is the company’s strategy. This new reality also provides landlords and retailers with an opportunity to make money. At the moment, all of our clients are meeting with people to discuss these opportunities.
ACROSS: How is this reflected in the conference program?
PUPILLO: That is the global theme. The program has six pillars (see box). When we talk about sustainability, we describe the attention that is placed on the environment, as well as on sustainability at an economic level. Today, we are working on new business models that allow businesses to be profitable in a healthier way on a long-term basis. A new generation of retailers, many of whom started online, are redefining the retail landscape and appealing to an increasingly ethical consumer. Therefore, for the first time, a “Retail Village” will be available at MAPIC, where the best practices regarding the improvement of the energetic performance of assets and the ethical parts of retail brands will be shown. We will, for example, emphasize on the new way of working, because these kinds of brands work in different ways and cooperate on different levels with landlords.
ACROSS: Is MAPIC primarily about connecting old and new as well as bigger and smaller players?
PUPILLO: That is one of the big initiatives we have. The big retail village will be located in the middle of the conference, from which we will present the new players in the market. New brands are generally mid-sized brands that have huge potential because of their strong values, such as sustainability, ethnic sourcing, and local consumption. At MAPIC, we aim to create a unique space in which they can connect with new partners. A part of the village will also be dedicated to “quick commerce players” or “last mile operators”, such as Guerrilla. There is a lot of political discourse surrounding these players. They have become part of the retail ecosystem, so bigger players need to talk with them and understand how things are changing. There will also be a part dedicated to digital marketplaces. Physical and online sales are different. We must understand the differences, but we must also understand that you cannot have one without the other right now. We really want to put new players in the spotlight in order to introduce new blood to landlords. New blood is needed, because the point of a conference is no longer to look for new tenants for large shopping centers. Thanks to retail parks and the ongoing development of mixed-use, there are many different kinds of locations as well as different kinds of players. That is also reflected in our two brands: “LeisurUp” is our leisure event dedicated to accelerating location-based attractions in lifestyle destinations, and “The Happetite” is our international food industry trade show.
ACROSS: What else will be new at MAPIC 2022?
PUPILLO: Among others things, we will have closed-door events at MAPIC 2022. Those events will only be for 80 people and will address specific topics. We will select the audience members. The aim is to connect sellers and buyers in a more efficient and easier way. We are working toward increasing the value that our clients get from visiting Cannes. The opportunity to get to know new retailers, new tenants, and new models should be combined with the possibility for attendees of these events to meet in a much more tailor-made way. In my opinion, that is key for any conference. Our industry is currently in the midst of great transformation. Therefore, we need to provide guidance to people. Our goal is to give an overview of the major trends, highlight best practices, and try to bring leaders together with other people to prepare or close deals in an inspiring atmosphere.
ACROSS: What feedback are you currently getting from exhibitors and visitors?
PUPILLO: It is positive. The industry is excited to be meeting once again. All of the major players have already confirmed. Some of them did not attend the event last year, but they will be in attendance this year. The first quarter of 2022 showed that the industry’s performance was really good. That, of course, is very helpful. Uncertainties remain about those travelling from Asian countries, but that is the challenge of the time in which we live. In general, I would say that a total recovery to pre-crisis levels, with visitors from all over the world, will not be seen until 2024. The important thing for us to keep in mind is that those who are able to travel are interested in meeting.
ACROSS: Do you intend to have hybrid events to complement the program?
PUPILLO: We have all offered numerous digital events over the last two years. However, it is absolutely clear to us that people want to meet. MAPIC 2022 will be a physical event, but a lot of digital support will be provided to enrich the service. Therefore, we will, for example, have digital platforms for networking. Basically, there will be a new platform from which you can contact all participants. You can identify them online and contact them to schedule meetings. As a result, you will be able to ensure better and more efficient conference attendance. The event itself will be physical, but digital tools should increase the value and comfort level of the event – quite similar to any well-performing physical retail destination.
MAPIC 2022 – The Program’s Six Pillars
- The new retail: Concepts meeting new consumer needs and values.
- Leisure: Creating experiences in physical places.
- Food: Giving a new flavor to retail destinations.
- Sustainability: Respond to consumers’ search for meaning and investors’ search for value.
- The evolution of traditional property assets and the rise of mixed-use: Borders between asset classes continue to blur, creating new and unique lifestyle destinations.
- Innovation: Bridge the gap between online and offline with seamless shopping experiences.
“People, Planet, and Profit: Navigating retail towards a more human world” – MAPIC is scheduled to take place in Cannes from 29 November to 1 December 2022. The trade fair was created in 1995, and it is the global platform for building vibrant retail and urban destinations. Every year, the international retail property market event attracts thousands of retailers, property managers, and food and leisure leaders from all over the world. More information can be found at: www.mapic.com.