ACROSS: The expansion of Atrium Promenada in Warsaw was opened on October 17, 2018. What has the feedback from retailers and visitors been so far?
LIAD BARZILAI: To be honest, we are very pleased with the reaction so far, not just in terms of the very positive anecdotal feedback that we have received from visitors and retailers, but also in terms of the uptick in both footfall levels and turnover. As we do with all of our large redevelopment projects, from the very early planning stages, we look at what we think are the best in class retail innovations from around the world, we talk to our retailers about what they want, and, most importantly, we take feedback from the local communities our centers serve. Then, we combine all of that with our own experience and deliver a product that is designed to attract customers and hopefully make them want to stay at the locations longer – not just at the present moment in time, but in the longer-term future as well. In addition to having the right tenant mix, increased leisure and entertainment facilities, and ample provision for children and babies are also included, all contained within a clean, attractive, and secure environment. Free Wi-Fi and digital interaction with our customers are also essential. Having said all that, however well you plan, you never quite know until the doors open, so it is great that it has been so well received and our hard work is paying off.
ACROSS: The expansion includes a new food court area, for which you use the term “Foodertainment”. What is meant by that?
BARZILAI: I think it basically does what it says. Our aim is to provide our guests with a fantastic experience when they visit our centers, and ensuring that they are entertained and enjoy themselves while dining is very much at the heart of that. We do not want a quick snack and a drink to be the only option as that is no longer acceptable. We want our guests to have a variety of experiences that they can choose from and enjoy when spending time with their families and friends. That was why we came up with the “Republic of Flavors” concept, and we are pleased to report that it has proven to be very popular.
ACROSS: Eight days later, you opened the expansion of Atrium Targówek, which is also in the Polish capital. What is the most innovative retail concept that has been added to that location?
BARZILAI: It was a complex project that started with the re-development and refurbishment of the original 20-year-old center, which had become outdated and did not fit the needs of today’s consumers or retailers, let alone tomorrow’s. Our plans involved creating a brand new “fashion alley”, which is a modern and spacious, high-quality area that is flexible enough to meet the demands of our international fashion and lifestyle brand customers who want to introduce new flagship retail concepts. The result was that we were able to attract 27 new Polish and international brands to the shopping center and introduce a number of new up-market brands, such as Guess, for the first time. While there has been a lot of innovation and new concepts, if I had to pick one of the 32 new shops that were opened as a stand out, I would probably select the H&M flagship store, which is not just unique to Atrium Targówek, but is the first of its kind in Poland. It offers many original solutions in space design, including an internal void and lots of daylight, and it has a triple shop front, which has allowed the retailer to take a really innovative attitude to retail and merchandising.
ACROSS: In October 2018, you also completed the purchase of Wars Sawa Junior in Warsaw for EUR 301.5 million. Was that a fair price for that retail center?
BARZILAI: Yes, that was very exciting for us, and that center had been on our radar for a while, so we were very pleased to finally acquire it. Wars Sawa Junior is a Warsaw icon that is located in a 60-million-footfall area on the city’s busiest high street. The area is also set to benefit from a number of local developments offering both cultural attractions and new office space, which will attract even more visitors. While I cannot go into too much detail at this stage as we have not owned the center for long, there are a number of exciting development opportunities that we have identified to fully unlock its potential while respecting the historical legacy of the asset. It is, most definitely, one of our crown jewels.
ACROSS: On November 9, 2018, more news emerged from Warsaw – the opening of Atrium Reduta’s new leisure and entertainment offer. How important is leisure and entertainment nowadays for shopping center visitors in Poland?
BARZIALI: One of the global trends in commercial real estate is creating third destinations, after home and work – places where people want to meet friends, actively spend time, eat well, and shop. Our aim is not just to meet, but to exceed these expectations, to ensure that our guests want to visit us more often and for longer periods of time. The key to this is offering a perfect mix for our urban customers comprising a consistent, diverse, and comprehensive retail, service, and entertainment experience, perfectly suited to the contemporary lifestyles of the local community.
ACROSS: Atrium currently holds four assets in the Polish capital. Are any future purchases on the horizon?
BARZILAI: We are looking to invest in large urban areas, which have a growing and affluent population with more potential purchasing power. That is why we have decided to develop our assets and further strengthen our market position in Warsaw. We are always open to new opportunities – at the right price – but for now, our focus is on maximizing the potential of our existing portfolio.
ACROSS: Anna Dafna was recently appointed as Deputy CEO of Poland. What are her main tasks?
BARZILAI: Yes, we are fortunate to have a great team in Poland and are very lucky to have Anna at its helm. She is responsible for all aspects of the Atrium Group’s business in Poland and its positioning in the market as the leading owner and operator of dominant, urban shopping centers in the heart of their local communities. For roughly 10 years, Anna has been instrumental for Atrium and has exceeded expectations at every level. She has a strong background in both finance and real estate, and, with a thorough understanding of the Polish market, she is best placed to lead the team. I am really enjoying working closely with Anna as we continue to implement our strategy of improving our Polish portfolio through both the acquisition of new assets and through the redevelopment and refurbishment of our existing ones.