The performance of the ECE centers in the first half of 2023 once again proved how successful and resilient shopping centers are: Tenants at the ECE centers saw a substantial increase in sales of 15 percent compared to the same period of the previous year, and a third more space was leased overall than in the first half of 2022 – a total of 380,000 sq m. This shows that many well-known brands rely on the attractive mix of affluent clientele, strong visitor footfall, and the attraction of mutually stimulating retail, gastronomy, and entertainment offerings. This is confirmed by the 3.4 million visitors who frequent the 200 ECE centers situated in Europe’s top locations every day.
Expansion made easy
Shopping centers also owe their high attractiveness among tenants to their adaptability, which, unlike department stores and high-street properties, enables them to flexibly respond to new trends and requirements. They offer major international retailers room for growth and expansion. For example, the European retail chain Pepco recently signed 17 leases for new stores at ECE shopping centers as part of its expansion in Germany – and there are more to follow. Another current leasing highlight: In November, the successful Inditex brand Stradivarius is due to open its first store at an ECE center in Germany at the Milaneo in Stuttgart, which is the first Stradivarius store opening ever in Germany. Start-ups and smaller brands will find an ideal platform from which to present their concepts via pop-up stores and mall stands. Whether international retailers or local heroes and start-ups – all tenants benefit from the promotion of sales, weather-independent conditions, such as a bright, clean atmosphere, uniform opening hours, perfect infrastructure, and numerous other advantages. They include, for example, digital and analog advertising options at the point of sale, target group-specific marketing along the customer journey, and in-house research activities.
According to a population-representive online survey conducted by ECE 2023 in all ECE countries, shopping center visitors see the short distances and the fact that everything can be found under one roof as the main advantages of shopping centers compared to other local retailers.
Fit for the future
Today, more than ever, a prime location, excellent management, and continuous development are crucial for a retail property’s future. That means always being up-to-date, optimizing, modernizing, or even repositioning, and doing so in a way that fits perfectly – depending on the respective location and customer structure. ECE Marketplaces acts in accordance with this philosophy. The current construction and planning volume amounts to more than 400 million euros, with which the company is advancing its shopping center portfolio in a sustainable and future-oriented manner. The investors’ strategic goals, the changing demands of the center guests, and the ESG criteria are always considered. The recipe for success is value preservation and value enhancement through further development.
A perfect march: shopping and culinary enjoyment
One of the decisive factors for the success of a shopping center is the perfect location-specific sector and tenant mix. Therefore, its expansion and optimization are essential for a center’s further development. In addition to entertainment, leisure, and non-retail offerings, gastronomy perfectly complements stationary retail. Today, attractive and trendy culinary offerings are essential to ensuring a successful visit to a shopping center. Therefore, implementing new and exciting food & beverage concepts at the centers is a worthwhile investment in the future.
The latest figures back this up. For example, sales in the gastronomy sector at German ECE centers in the first half of 2023 increased by 33 percent compared to the same period of the previous year and by 18 percent compared to the first half of 2019. That also corresponds with visitor surveys. A personal survey of more than 50,000 visitors to German ECE centers between August and November 2022 revealed that 81 percent use gastronomic offerings when visiting a shopping center. A population-representative online survey conducted by ECE 2023 in all ECE countries concluded that 77 percent of shopping center visitors see gastronomic variety as an advantage of centers over the rest of the retail trade on site.
Today, customers focus more on quality and ambiance than they did a few years ago, and they are more willing than ever to pay higher prices for more individuality and service. Innovative casual and fine dining concepts, which go beyond the classic food court with dishes such as pizza, fries, and Asian snacks, significantly enhance the quality of a customer’s stay. The concrete positive effect that a gastronomy and experience concept tailored to the property can have is proven, for example, by the successful development of the sales and footfall figures of the FOODTOPIA floor at the MyZeil shopping center in Frankfurt am Main, which opened in 2019 after extensive restructuring. In addition to increasing the quality of stay and, thus, the length of stay, one of the goals was to create a new attraction at the center and, therefore, to sustainably revitalize the fourth floor, which had previously been less frequented – and that has been achieved: Sales on that floor increased by around 180 percent and footfall by about 60 percent in 2022 compared to 2015. The investment also created a new USP for the center.
CURRENT EXAMPLES OF NEW AND EXPANDED F&B OFFERINGS AT ECE CENTERS
Start of construction for the Food Garden in the Main-Taunus-Zentrum
In Sulzbach near Frankfurt am Main, construction work is starting on the new food garden that will enhance the Main-Taunus-Zentrum (MTZ), one of the largest and highest-turnover shopping centers in Germany. A new lively and urban center with a high-quality, varied range of restaurants and food outlets is being created on an area of around 9,000 sq m in the middle of the open-air center. A pre-letting rate of 90 percent has already been achieved for the total of five planned freestanding restaurant buildings with partly covered, partly open terraces, attractively landscaped outdoor areas and sophisticated architecture. The opening of the food garden is scheduled for spring 2025.
L’Osteria is coming to Rhein-Neckar-Zentrum
In Viernheim, ECE Marketplaces is further developing the Rhein-Neckar-Zentrum and optimizing the center’s leisure and gastronomy offerings. At the end of June, the foundation stone was laid for an entirely new, free-standing restaurant building, complete with attractive outdoor terraces, which will be built on the site formerly occupied by a Bauhaus market located directly at the center. L’Osteria, a successful pizza and pasta concept has been secured as one of the operators. In addition, two new tenants, bicycle retailer B.O.C. and the experience concept JUMP House and another indoor entertainment provider, will complement the Rhein-Neckar-Zentrum’s offering. Attractive new outdoor areas with green spaces and seating areas will also be created as part of the further development. The gradual opening of the new concepts is scheduled for 2024. Deutsche EuroShop, the owner of the Rhein-Neckar-Zentrum, and the new tenants are investing more than 10 million euros in the further development of the center and the expansion of the leasable areas.
Gastronomic variety at the Playce
The Playce, a new hotspot located in the heart of Berlin, which was created by Brookfield Properties and ECE on the site of the former Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, demonstrates the fusion of entertainment and retail into a trendsetting mix of innovative, unique stores with international entertainment players and gastronomic urban diversity. In addition to Manifesto, Europe’s largest food hub, featuring 22 restaurants and four bars spread over 4,400 sq m on two floors, The Alchemist, a British-born bar known for its extravagant cocktail creations, opened its first location in Germany at The Playce in spring 2023. Regional heroes have joined tourist favorite Caffè e Gelato, a tenant of Potsdamer Platz Arkaden from the very beginning. Special highlights include the Berlin-based company Brammibal’s Donuts, founded in 2015, which created Europe’s first vegan and climate-neutral donut and has been a successful tenant with a large following at Potsdamer Platz since 2019, and Burgermeister, which demonstrates the location’s sales potential.
Expanded and modernized Food Court at Olympia Brno
Due to the high interest of visitors for gastronomic offers – especially on weekends – the food court at the Czech ECE center Olympia Brno was enlarged and modernized this year. In addition to the expansion of the seating area, the renovation included the complete replacement of floor surfaces and furniture and the installation of a new escalator and of a children’s play area. A new, variable, energy-saving lighting concept also creates a unique atmosphere. The project was completed at the end of September.
New gastro hotspot at Rosengårdcentret Odense
Rosengårdcentret in Odense, Denmark, has added a new upscale restaurant to its diverse Food Avenue, celebrating a major food festival in September. In doing so, the popular and successful shopping center has responded to the increased demand for quality and ambiance in the food service sector and has also met the general trend toward a healthier lifestyle. Thus, the new Gusto restaurant, equipped with indoor and outdoor seating areas, offers Mexican and Mediterranean dishes made using high-quality, healthy, fresh ingredients in a stylishly elegant atmosphere.