Shopping centers have nothing to fear from e-commerce. On the contrary, “It’s a friend,” observed Marcel Kokkeel, CEO of Finnish developer Citycon Oyj, speaking at the ICSC European Conference in Stockholm, last week.
The Internet is a powerful instrument of communication that can promote retailers and shopping centers, he and other panelists said. And for all the business that retailers do online, it’s their stores that deliver the profits, said Laurent Morel, chairman of the board at French development firm Klépierre. “The Internet is part of the landscape today,” he said, adding that retailers now must be in shopping centers, downtowns, railway stations, and anywhere else people gather.
This is not the first time a newcomer to the retail world has been perceived, incorrectly, as a threat, noted Thierry Halff, vice chairman of the board at Swiss department store chain Maus Frères. In the 1960s hypermarkets were predicted to bury department stores. Instead, both formats thrive. Similarly, the shopping center was supposed to drive the downtown department store into extinction, he said, but that didn’t happen either.
However, to continue to thrive, developers must keep their shopping centers fresh, both architecturally and in terms of their retail mix, the executives said. It also means staying on top of retailers to ensure that they are stocking their stores with the latest product.