The fightback has begun: instead of being paralysed by fear or worry about the pace of change, the retail sector has started to adapt and to react positively, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s panel on ‘What are the new opportunities for retail real estate investment’, which was held at Mapic recently.
‘Last year everyone was talking about disruption,’ said Herman Kok, Head of Research, Meyer Bergman. ‘This year we are talking about transformation, which is very positive. We are looking at solutions instead of dwelling on the problems’.
Looking at the consumer differently is part of the solution.
‘We have to excel at the experience and hospitality that cannot be delivered online’, said Kok. ‘When we look at consumers we see two things happening: on the one hand they want to be surprised and have novelty experiences. On the other they don’t want to waste time, so they’ll choose brands that guarantee quality’.
It is a mistake to think that customers have changed, because what has changed is their ability to communicate and express an opinion.
‘Our industry started with B2B, let’s find tenants, then moved to B2C, let’s find customers, and now things have changed and it’s C2B and also C2C,’ said Eric Decouvelaere, Head of Retail EMEA, CBRE Global Investors. ‘Our model is no longer offer-driven, it is demand-driven and in order to get things right we have to start listening’.
The role of the landlord has changed and there is no going back. ‘We no longer just collect rent,’ said Rebeca Guzman Vidal, Group Head of Retail Strategy, Chelsfield. ‘We are part of a bigger community, we are expected to engage more and to deliver memorable experiences to the customer’.
People exchange opinions, rate every experience and check every claim made. ‘Authenticity is a must,’ said Christofer Salmen, Asset Manager, Retail Portfolio, Alecta. ‘It is important to listen to what people actually want because there has been a shift in focus from people as consumers to people as human beings. In Sweden we have launched a programme to train people in human interaction’.
Adapting to new market conditions means changing the way business is done and the way buildings are used.
‘Repurposing is a magic word for us, as in many cases retail assets will have to become last-mile delivery points, offices or residential,’ said Guzman Vidal. ‘The occupiers are blurring the lines of what retail is supposed to look like and interesting things are happening. I think it’s the most exciting time to be in retail right now’.
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