Simon Russell of The John Lewis Partnership.
At the conference, attended by the industry’s most senior and experienced representatives, debate raged particularly on the opportunities presented through multi-channel retailing.
However, in marked contrast to previous years when the shopping center industry felt threatened by internet e-commerce, professionals are now looking at the opportunities this presents. Dire predictions of the early death of shopping centers having proved unfounded, shopping center management teams are now fighting back with a raft of innovative ideas, some drawn from retailers, which are now being incorporated into shopping centers’ reinvestment strategy and marketing campaigns.
Simon Russell, Head of Multi-Channel Retailing at The John Lewis Partnership, who spoke at the conference said John Lewis’ multichannel strategy is driving people back to shops. Mobile engagement was also growing with over 25% of visits to John Lewis’ mobile website related to shops, compared to less than 5% on the main website.
Forward-looking shopping centers no longer consider themselves as purely attractive containers for retailers, and are integrating new ideas into renovations and refurbishment projects. This will make shopping centers more attractive to investors who are looking for ‘value added’.
Done correctly and a secondary shopping center undergoing refurbishment and with a clear strategy for multi-channel retailing could turn itself into a primary asset though strong asset management, predicted Christopher Wicker, Chairman of The Retail Consulting Group speaking at the conference.
Ronald Altoon, ICSC Trustee and partner at Altoon and Porter Architects, added: “Practically every project can have a second wind.”
One of the trends giving shopping center asset management hope is ‘click and collect’, where shoppers order on-line and collect their goods from the store. This is proven to generate more sales, as the major headache for both retailers and consumers when ordering online is delivery of the goods.
Russell at The John Lewis Partnership, said: “Our research shows that 60% of our customers begin their research on-line, but prefer to go into our shops to make or collect the purchase.”
Those visiting the shop to collect generally make further purchases whilst there, he added.
However, even here some retailers are ahead of shopping centers, warned RCG’s Wicker. “E-drive is some retailers answer to delivering goods ordered on-line. Effectively it’s a drive-through collection point. For the retailer it’s beneficial because in France the collection points are deemed warehouses by the government and taxed accordingly, rather than the higher taxed retail assets. Auchan opened its first in 2006 and now has 500 drive-thrus in France.”
Shopping centers, which already have large car parks in many cases, could adapt this concept quickly and easily, he feels.
The 2011 ICSC European Shopping Centre Award winners were also announced at the conference, showcasing Europe’s best centers. 11 shopping centers from nine countries across Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom came away with recognitions.
2011 Awards Jury Chair, Biljana Pehrsson, Deputy CEO & Head of Real Estate at East Capital Private Equity, said: “Despite the economic downturn and projects being developed during the worst time possible, the award-winning investors and developers stuck to their original ideas and struggling hard to reach their goals, not allowing shortcuts or changes to jeopardize long-term commercial success.
"The Annual ICSC European Shopping Centre Awards are the most highly regarded such awards across Europe thanks to the expert jury’s personal visit and review of each finalist.”
Nils-Christian Hakert, Conference Chair and COO of Atrium European Real Estate, said: “It’s an exciting and dynamic time for retail real estate and the quality of debate and ideas at this year’s ICSC Conference has proved that the industry now looking to the future rather than being mired in the recent past.”
The 2012 ICSC European Conference will be held in Berlin, at the Intercontinental Hotel from April 18-20.
Source: Nicky Godding