Town center managers should go back to basics to meet consumer demand as new research from global property advisor CBRE reveals that most Europeans still prefer to visit their local shops and town centers rather than buy products online or shop at out-of-town retail venues.
At a time when there is an unprecedented level of consumer access to the internet across Europe, CBRE has completed the most comprehensive and most far-reaching study of its kind, canvassing the opinions of more than 10,000 shoppers across Europe to discover how and where they shop.
The report - ‘How We Shop: Inside the Minds of Europe’s Consumers’ - reveals that while online retailing continues to grow in appeal, consumers do not intend to radically change their shopping habits in the coming years and the overwhelming majority are yet to fully embrace new technology and digital tools such as QR codes. Two thirds of consumers said that price of goods, cleanliness, security and convenient access were the most important factors when choosing where to shop. Entertainment and leisure were also deemed important by a third of those surveyed and by more than half of the younger age group.
Despite competition from online and out-of-town shopping, town centers and the high street continue to be the preferred option for European consumers. As a result, the pace of change of retail fundamentals is relatively slow with the physical store continuing to play a key role in the new, multi-channel world.
Highlights from the report include:
• Local shops and town centers are visited most frequently for clothing shopping – at least once a month on average. For out-of-town shopping centers the average visit frequency is every six weeks.
• 78% of Europeans choose to shop for fashion goods in town centers, rising to approximately 90% among those living in Western Europe.
• Two-thirds or more of consumers indicated that price of goods, cleanliness, security, good/free parking and convenient access were the most important factors when choosing where to shop.
• The range of retailers and, in particular, the size of their stores (and consequent ability to carry a full range of goods) were high up the list of consumers’ priorities.
• 54% of consumers use a car when visiting town centers and 76% do so for out-of-town centers; 30% of journeys to local shops are also taken by car, suggesting that parking provision is important for customer satisfaction and footfall whether in or out-of town.
• Online retailing complements in-store retailing. When buying online, 64% of consumers prefer home delivery, but 85% said it was important to have access to a physical store to view/touch clothes before buying online.
• Digital tools have yet to fully take hold. For example, fewer than one third of consumers in Europe have ever compared prices on their mobiles in-store or used QR codes to access websites; however, usage will increase in the future given the higher take-up today among 16 to 34 year olds.
Peter Gold, Head of Cross Border EMEA Retail, CBRE commented: “The ‘essentials’ of a successful retail destination – value, convenience, cleanliness and security –remain uppermost in shoppers’ minds. While many retailers are adapting to technological advances, consumers are telling us that they do not intend to radically change their shopping habits in the immediate future. Consumers are far less interested in mobile technology and QR codes than the retail industry itself, so perhaps investment is better spent elsewhere.
“Convenience is still the consumer’s watchword; people like to shop locally and they want their shopping destinations to be easily accessible by car and free to park in. Out-of-town centers usually offer free parking, but town center shopping facilities normally charge putting themselves at a distinct disadvantage. Our advice to town center managers, shopping centers and retail investors is listen to what consumers want, concentrate on getting the basics right, and this will ultimately give you the best chance of success.”