Gerard Groener, Corio

Who is Corio today and what is your background in the company?

"Corio is one of the leading retail property companies in Europe. All our operations are internalized, so leasing, center management and development are all done in-house with a total of 550 people. The company is listed in Amsterdam Stock Exchange. Our largest markets are the Netherlands, France and Italy, which account for approx. 70% of the portfolio, while Spain, Germany and Turkey contribute 30%.

"I’ve been with Corio almost from the start. The company was originally founded from a merger between VIB, a multi-sector listed company and WBN, which was a subsidiary of APG, which still has a large stake in the company today. In early 2001 I started working as Managing Director for the Dutch business unit. From 2003 to 2006 I also took on responsibility for Italy. In 2006 I joined the board and since 2008 I am the CEO of the company."

Which markets and areas will you focus on in the next two-three years?

"We are quite happy in the markets that we are currently operating in. Our main focus is not to extend our pipeline, but to manage it responsibly. Secondly we will focus on our operations, trying to keep our operations in Spain up to standard and to stabilize our German operations, as we entered Germany only two years ago and we are still building up the management team.

"Italy is an interesting market for us; there is a wide gap between the perception of the country in the newspapers and what we see in the day-to-day operations. The country is performing very well, our shopping centers are fully occupied and showing positive numbers in sales, footfall and rents.

"At the same time we are making a distinction between what we see as traditional retail centers and the projects that we want to focus on, which we refer to as ‘favorite meeting places’. These will be located predominantly in downtown areas, transit-oriented locations or in the heart of a large community."

Is it difficult to compete with companies that are looking for similar opportunities? What differentiates Corio from the competition?

"Europe is a competitive market, but I think that there are still many opportunities, particularly for the listed sector, to take up positions in good cities that have a growth potential.

"The differences are not so striking if you look at it from a general perspective; however, if you look at the product that we want to build, every company has its own story. We try to look at it more from a consumer perspective, we want to create favorite meeting places, places that people would like to go to spend their time, combining multiple activities next to the retail activity.

"This also entails introducing all kinds of new technology which will help us to build up consumer intelligence, knowing what the people do, how they live, what they purchase, how we can serve them through the development of fidelity systems that are linked to smartphones, gaming or social media. Consumer needs have changed. Today people are not just buying a product because someone is selling it; they want to know why they are selling it, there must be a story behind it. We clearly see that retailers who can introduce that story are the most successful ones."

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