‘Retail is undergoing a big reshuffle’

Retail is not in crisis, but it is changing and becoming more varied and interesting, Josip Kardun, CEO, Multi Corporation, told Real Estate Day. 

‘The main challenge in our industry is that basically our product is changing and we are trying to change with the product,’ he said. ‘The old mantra that big is beautiful no longer applies. Now the trend for shopping centres is smaller, mixed-use and with a variety of offerings’.

Mixed-use means there is a ‘renaissance of community services’, from public libraries to postal services to banking in shopping centres. There are more F&B offerings, which will take up 15-20% of the space, and there are shops, as many retailers may have an internet presence but still need that physical space to sell their merchandise.

‘In Poland we have dancing schools where the parents leave their children for classes while they go and do their shopping,’ Kardun said. ‘We have highly professional medical centres and also co-working platforms coming into the malls, which are becoming the meeting places of the future’.

It is important to think outside the box, he said: ‘You need to reinvent our business to a certain extent, so I don’t call it a crisis but simply a big reshuffle, which will have interesting results. The winners will not be the pure online providers, but the ones who play clicks and bricks the best’.  

Everyone seems to be targeting Millennials living in highly gentrified city centres, he said, but ‘we are providing affordable leisure and shopping for ordinary workers and normal households in the outskirts or the suburbs who would otherwise be shut out. We need to focus on these people again. They may not be the aspirational segment, they may not be instagramming all day, but they still deserve respect and a good experience’.

Multi Corporation is trying to be ‘a full-service platform for Blackstone and a variety of investors like Allianz, Commerz or Deutsche in Europe who are still invested in retail,’ Kardun said. ‘Some believe being a service provider is too much heavy lifting and too low margins, but in reality competition is less and we are increasingly being recognised as a fully integrated full-service platform covering all the bases from architectural services to accounts, leasing and development’. 

Some market participants are withdrawing because they find the sector too tough, but Multi’s investors understand that ‘today is not the best time to dispose of retail real estate and so they are taking the opposite route, investing even more into the sector and trying to create long-term, sustainable value’, he said.

Multi Corporation now has a presence in 15 countries, manages over €11 bn of real estate, has more than 700 employees and, said Kardun, it is becoming a magnet for young talent. ‘The services we provide keep us sharp and vibrant and we are perceived by the young as a great Academy for learning the business with blue chip investors,’ he said. ‘People can then move on somewhere else or develop their career with us further. It is working very well for me and for my management team’. 

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