Tell us a little bit about yourself and Larry Smith.
I have been working for Larry Smith since 1989. I am the CEO of the company and Vice President of the Italian Council of Shopping Centers (CNCC). Larry Smith today is a company focusing mainly on management activities, but we are also very active in leasing and consultancy for shopping centers. Our focus is not only Italy anymore; we have branch offices in Russia and in Brazil, which is a very dynamic and growing market. As a consultant we are also active in Eastern Europe.
In your opinion, what are the retail trends that will dominate the industry in the near future?
There are currently many new trends shaping the retail sector, so the answer to this question largely depends on the viewpoint. For example, in Italy there are very few projects in the pipeline, but there are great opportunities for refurbishment of existing shopping centers. There are more than 15 million m² GLA of shopping centers in the country, and some of them are starting to get older and will need to be renovated. Therefore, I think that refurbishment will be the main trend for the coming years in Italy, one of the challenges being the selection of the right centers.
As for new centers, the projects in the pipeline for next year are very few but of very high quality. The new shopping centers expected in the next three-four years in Italy are large and very large developments by international developers with very high standards in terms of design and quality.
What about retail trends in other countries?
If you look at other countries the picture is different: there is China, where there is a risk of oversupply and the main problem will be finding new brands and retailers to enter the country. On the other hand, in Brazil there is a good platform for high-quality centers, but as the purchasing power of the middle class is increasing, new types of products, such as retail parks, will need to be introduced to the market. That is what we are doing with our current retail park project in Recife.
Our goal is to reduce the cost for retailers, because today property management in Brazil is quite expensive, much higher than the average in Europe, which makes it possible to introduce a new style of management to the country.
Are you implementing multi-channel strategies in your shopping centers and how do you think they will affect the retail industry in the years to come?
I believe that the e-commerce phenomenon is a great opportunity to reposition existing projects. We can expect that retail spaces will be redeveloped for leisure functions, which are more and more required by the audience. Among others, the food and beverage industry still has a wide growth margin in the Italian market and logistics services will be improved to integrate e-commerce.
The digital revolution in communication is already part of our daily life and is constantly transforming, bringing the shopping center manager in closer contact with the client at a very low cost: an incredible opportunity to show that we are interested in our clients.