ICSC: Opportunity knocks for European retail development (EU)

Debates on multi-channel retailing dominated ICSC's 36th European Conference, held this year alongside the French National Council of Shopping Centres' SIEC Retail Real Estate Exhibition, which drew delegates from more than 28 countries.

ICSC Paris 2011 Simon Russell John Lewis

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 conce

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