Dynamic shopping centre management is essential to the future of the shopping centre industry, delegates at the 2011 International Council of Shopping Centres’ (ICSC) Czech Slovak Retail Real Estate Conference heard. Speaker after speaker warned of the dangers of complacency.
The conference attracted more than 130 delegates from across the region and focused on Shopping Centres of the Future with speakers from Google, international architects Benoy and acclaimed futurist Rohit Talwar.
Jan Kubicek, Chair of the ICSC Czech Republic National Committee and fund manager of ING Real Estate, said: “With so much uncertainty in the international money markets, I came to the conference wondering whether the retail real estate industry had any future at all. I am very encouraged to report that the European shopping centre industry is adapting and reacting positively to changing consumer behaviour.”
However he added that strong shopping centre management must support proactive retailers.
Jiri Lenk, Industry Manager for Google in the Czech Republic who spoke at the conference identified the trend for localisation. He said there are 1.7 million smart phone users in the Czech Republic (5.3 billion worldwide). “80 per cent of smart phone users search for local information,” he said.
Also speaking at the conference, Chris Igwe, senior director of European Retail Leasing at CBRE, detailed retailers who have increasingly sought to reinvent and add new concepts: In 2007 Etam launched lingerie retail concept Undiz, in 2008 Inditex launched Uterque, but he warned that retailers and shopping centres must always get the basics right: good products in an attractive environment, otherwise a concept, however new and exciting, will fail.
Investors, developers and asset managers at the conference pointed out that while international retailers may be aiming to maintain market share by reinventing themselves in markets where they are already established, there are many areas of Central Eastern Europe where they have not yet penetrated and which would welcome them as their retail market continues to expand.
Jonathan Hallett, head of Cushman and Wakefield in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, said: “Markets adapt remarkably quickly. If some of the big brands do not come into this region, it is likely that local retailers will seize the opportunity to expand into that space.”
Last year Cushman and Wakefield arranged the lease for the first F&F standalone store in Palladium shopping centre, Prague. Tesco, which owns the brand, plans to roll it out across Europe.
Jan Kubicek added: “Just like retailers, shopping centres need to deliver destinations which are relevant to their catchment area and consumer profile. Their strategy must embrace social media otherwise they risk ignoring young, digitally aware consumers who may otherwise shun centres in favour of online and digital experiences.”