Don't slash marketing budgets, shopping centers warned (EUR)

Shopping center development and management companies seeking to save money during the current worldwide economic downturn should think hard before slashing their marketing budgets.

Marketing budgets are often one of the first casualties of cost-cutting, but there is clear evidence that successful marketing can boost footfall and, most importantly, sales.

Delegates from 25 countries across Europe attending the sixth International Council of Shopping Centers' (ICSC) Marketing Conference, held this year in Vienna, were shown how shopping centers across Europe were competing successfully thanks to innovative and creative marketing campaigns.

Conference chair, Kate Mason, of UK-based Kate Mason Consulting, said: "It's the shopping centers with the creativity, courage and commitment to roll out innovative new campaigns which are showing the industry how it should be done. By the time the rest of the industry has caught up with them, they are already planning their next campaign."

One of the Republic of Ireland's most successful shopping centers, Dundrum, presented its award-winning marketing campaigns that, despite trading in Ireland's most destructive recession for decades, has bucked all retail trends by boosting footfall into its centre.

At the conference, futurist Jesper Bo Jensen of Netherlands-based Future Research, urged marketeers from across Europe to look at the future, not roll out campaigns which have worked in the past.

"Nothing is the same, and it won't be again," he said. "The new world is high quality, low price, unique or very special."

The middle platform is eroding, he said: "It's Lidl versus Gucci."

"Discount is now mainstream – think Ikea and H&M."

Bo Jensen predicts that consumer behaviour will change in autumn 2009 as he says it takes people up to a year to adapt to changing economic trends.

"It's then that consumers will restructure their spending," he said.

Analysis of shoppers and the way they shop is essential, he pointed out, going on to say that women enjoy shopping with friends or alone and men much prefer to go with their wives.

"The most successful shopping center is one that separates husband and wife without him noticing," he added.

Speakers urged shopping centers to make every day different for shoppers. Visitors should be able to recognize the different atmospheres of a Friday night and Sunday afternoon, attracting difference demographics who behave and shop in distinct ways. From the senior shoppers, who shop because they need to, to young shoppers who don't shop for what they need, but for what they want.

Kate Mason added: "This was the most exciting marketing conference for years. It is interesting that, with their backs to the wall and little margin for error, shopping center marketing teams are coming up with the most imaginative campaigns we have seen for for a very long time."

Source: Nicky Godding

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