From your point of view, what should the placemaking industry expect in 2023?
„The placemaking industry has in the last years evolved and is here to stay as an evolution of classical retail and the shopping center industry. We see the growing need for innovation and the acceptance of bold changes in retail properties. The consumer of today is more than ever a visitor, especially in the last three years it has been made clear that he can do the shopping for different gastronomic supplies right from his home, out of the palm of his hand. But his blue light device cannot give him the experience he needs such as the interaction, the immersion, and the combination of physical and psychological elements he experiences as a single individual, surrounded by others. After two years of almost constant social isolation, we have seen consumers flocking the shopping places in 2022 which are already offering much more than the mere retail offer. And again, every consumer can consume online, but the experience of shopping and the relationship one has to a book, an LP, or a sweater he carefully picks in an appealing place to shop gives other neural impulses.
I see much more thinking outside of the box, integration of more services as well as more interlinking usages in centers, depending on the sizes. The consumer shift to e-commerce pushes the need for more appeal on the time spent in former classical retail places and a stronger establishment of omnichannel services. The energy prices skyrocketing move the owners to focus on productivity, thus retail will be complemented even more with new concepts of F&B. I foresee even a growing trend of attracting medical and dental centers, beauty clinics, and child-care facilities in centralized shopping places making them, even more, an alternative to the classical city-centric plazas with busy streets.“
What opportunities and challenges do you see?
„For once I see many integrations of new usages synergetic to classical retail, such as utilizing flagship stores as scaled-down fulfillment centers, or more business and office places either being docked to or integrated into retail properties. For sure the energy issues and growing concern about the inflation and recession trends will make all of us to some extent reluctant to change and invest. The forecast calls, such as a crystal ball reading, for bold personas that are willing to set a clear strategy and implement it even through stormy waters. The only mistake that can be made in stormy waters is to bring a ship to a standstill and let it be commandeered by the coming waves and wind.“
In your view, is the placemaking industry facing any fundamental or long-term changes?
„We are seeing the real meaning of the word ‘placemaking’, it is here to stay as an integrative synergy between retail, F&B, social infrastructure, and business facilities. The future from the sustainable point of view of ESG calls for the utilization of retail locations as development cores for the surrounding areas as more residents come to the vicinity, or even the integration of existing retail properties to reduce the burden of new building grounds which consume green areas in municipalities. Also, the classical ‘edge-of-the-town’ large shopping places located in small cities or metropolitan regions usually surrounded by unused construction land or old brownfield structures call for new building zones with infrastructure opportunities. Thus, all the new developments coming to the surrounding areas have a positive ESG footprint, as it allows the stabilization of such a synergetic infrastructure and utilizes it as an additional pillar for urban development.“
What do you recommend / what are your hopes for the industry and market participants?
„I wish us all a lot of courage and wisdom to be able to get the strength to move forward and not be reduced to quarterly forecasting which now, due to the changing environment, is a sad trend. Let us implement the changes bravely enough to bring shopping places to the future, making them spaces we use to work, play, eat or spend time, get entertained, and shop and gain personal experience. I do not want to sound cliché and say every crisis is a chance, but indeed it brings us the possibility to utilize the best of ourselves and engage in our businesses more boldly than before.”
Read more about expert opinions in our Online Special: “Industry Outlook 2023”.