Marcus Wild, CEO of SES Spar European Shopping Centers: “Our strategy can be summarized in a few words: Be urban – be authentic – never be boring.” Credit: Peter Oswald
Management

“We Continuously Reinvent Ourselves”

What is the key to long-term success in retail real estate? Marcus Wild, CEO of SES Spar European Shopping Centers, knows the answer.

ACROSS: With its more than 1,700 retailers operating at 29 locations in six Central European countries, SES has generated a 2.6 percent increase in sales revenues. Are you and your shop partners satisfied with the sales growth, and what figures do you expect for this financial year?

WILD: We were extremely satisfied with the previous year – retailers across our SES locations were able to record encouraging sales growth despite the extensive conversion work that was carried out due to refurbishments at some of the centers. The result is also good, given the challenging conditions prevailing in the industry. Measured in terms of EBT, SES itself had its most successful year in the history of the company in 2018. We are systematically continuing our quality offensive for 2019.

ACROSS: Steady sales growth is, of course, a win-win situation for both operators and tenants. What support do you provide to your partners to help them reach such a goal?

WILD: We look at things from a retailer’s perspective. We are retailers ourselves, we embody the proverbial “Spirit of Retailing”, and we assess the measures to be taken from the point of view of our shop partners. Our centers are synonymous with quality of stay, well-being, top gastronomy, and serve as platforms for experience, great shop mixes, and lots of variety. The current development of our SES managed shopping centers has confirmed that this approach will also have a positive effect on the footfall and performance of our tenants in 2019. We are all working towards the same goal and profiting from each other. In addition to the must-haves of international and national brands, we rely on hand-picked retail partners and high-quality gastronomy, thereby ensuring that we remain present in a distinctive and regionally unique manner.

ACROSS: Retail, as we know, is subject to constant change. That is even more the case today than it was in the past. The driving force has always been and will continue to be the consumer. What major trends are you, as an operator, currently responding to?

WILD: Ideally, we are able to avoid reacting to trends after they have been identified; instead, we try to anticipate them and act accordingly. We do, however, focus on the latest developments, but we sometimes simply let the hype pass and remain calm when we suspect that a trend will only be short-term. Now and then, we just give things a try. We operate in an environment that is extremely service-oriented, we embrace mixed-use concepts, and, at the same time, we satisfy our customers’ desire for authenticity and surprising elements.

ACROSS: How do you manage to establish successful retail locations in the medium and long term during this period of paradigm shift? What strategies and goals are you currently pursuing?

WILD: That can be summarized in a few words: Be urban – be authentic – never be boring. Our objective is to create retail spaces in which the vibrancy of life pulsates. At the same time, we strive to offer retailers the best possible platforms. Each location is unique, provides complement where necessary, and creates innovation and variety in order to avoid too much of the same. Not only does our vision of space apply to malls, but it also extends to district development as well as the management of shopping streets.

ACROSS: The willingness to innovate is arguably a basic prerequisite for future success. New ideas and fresh concepts are indispensable. How is innovation generated at SES? To what degree is your team interdisciplinary, and how important are ideas from outside the industry?

WILD: In the course of our daily work, we network with other industries, with retailers, and universities, and we draw inspiration from those sources. Feedback culture within our teams is also important. Everyone is encouraged to develop his or her own sounding board: Reflecting on solutions together and working across departments opens up new horizons. Despite our consistency, we continuously reinvent ourselves. We never rest on our laurels, and we always ask ourselves about what really matters to people and how we can improve further.

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