ICSC’s European Conference in Berlin.

Is Big still Beautiful?

There are genuine signs of strength in retail trade across parts of Europe, but the shopping centre industry continues to experience turbulent times. The annual ICSC European Conference, in Berlin from 18-20 April, is where the industry’s senior players come together to plot the road ahead.

According to Dr David Bosshart, CEO of Zurich-based Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute who is speaking at the conference, one of the few things that truly work in the global economy are shopping malls.  He said: “Shopping malls all over the world support and stabilise the economy. They have an underestimated economic impact.”

Over the last decade, shopping developments have expanded as international retailers demanded more space. Now with some reducing their shop footprint due to Internet sales, ‘Is Big still Beautiful?’  This year’s conference will look at whether such formats are sustainable and can smart cities accommodate big retail formats.  Department stores are also seeing a resurgence and the conference will consider their expansion strategies and talk to representatives of some of Europe’s biggest.

Continued financial investment is essential for the industry’s future – but where will it come from? Anna Kavanagh, Global Head of Asset Management of AXA Real Estate UK and Frank Billand of Union Investment, Germany are just two of the panel speakers who will debate the issues.

To kick start the conference, Alexander Otto, Marcus Wild and Gerard Groener will be on this year’s CEO Panel – which has come to be one of the conference’s most anticipated sessions.

According to Patrick Delcol, Chair of the ICSC 2012 European Conference Planning Committee and Country Head of Poland DTZ, a fragmented industry approach will delay retail recovery. “The retail industry must play its part in the Eurozone recovery, and that means working together in the same room, in the same city at the same time.”

Shopping, Consuming, Seduction – Where Do We Go in an Age of Less?

Dr David Bosshart is the CEO of Zurich-based Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, which conducts scientific social and economic research. His area of expertise is in the future of consumption and social change and he will speak at this year’s ICSC European Conference in Berlin.

Leading up to the conference, ICSC asked Dr Bosshart to give his opinion on the industry’s biggest issues:

How is retail responding to the current economic downturn?

We witness a shift from a focus on money to a focus on creativity. Winning retailers will focus on creativity: No more how much a consumer spends is the ultimate measure, but how well he spends. Edgy creativity in much more austere times means a reward for attention, attraction, and caring. And those customers will come back.

What is the future for retailers – on the high street, in shopping centres or the internet?

Customers these days no longer make any distinction of channels, either it suits their needs and expectations, or not. The biggest challenge is a cultural one: can we change the mindset of our staff, even if we have offline stores, mobile communication, web sites, social commerce, and call centres at the same time?

Are retailers slow in responding to change?

I wouldn’t say so. The gap between those who cope and those who don’t – or too late only – is growing. But this is always the case in hard times. We will certainly see more consolidation for all businesses that don’t get a more personal note.

What are the new opportunities for retail?

Retail is still the most fascinating industry of hospitality, deep joy, and easy pleasure at the same time. Shopping became the greatest leisure activity all over the world over the last years – even men are learning to shop! People like to buy, to talk about stuff, to communicate, to collect, to share, to swap. This offers tremendous new opportunities. Only the blind will not get it.

What is your message for the Shopping centre industry?

One of the few things that truly work in the global economy are shopping malls. Why? First, technically speaking, shopping malls all over the world support and stabilise the economy. They have an underestimated economic impact. Second, and more important even, it is the hardest form of soft power: It is about the true power of seduction in the coming years. People like good seduction. It’s a love affair.

Cyriac Roeding, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Shopkick, USA is also speaking at the conference.

Shopkick is the first mobile app that gives rewards and offers simply for walking into stores. In Cyriac’s opinion, it’s imperative that the retail industry participates in emerging engagement channels.

“Shoppers are becoming savvier. Brick and mortar retailers need to implement programmes that add value to the in-store experience or they risk losing customers to online marketplaces,” he said.

He thinks that rather than internet shopping being a threat, it presents a huge opportunity for physical retailers if harnessed correctly through smartphones.

“Once we had a few retailers on-board to test our solution, and had early results showing Shopkick delivers the foot traffic we promise, signing on both brand and retail partners has accelerated.”

Cyriac anticipates more change in retail in the next five years than in the past 100. “Retailers and businesses will continue to focus on driving in-store purchase, because the No. 1 concern for retailers is foot traffic and margin of in-store sales exceeds that of goods sold online.”

Mobile will be the No. 1 marketing medium for physical retailers, he says, “The cell phone is the only interactive medium consumers carry with them in a non-interactive environment, like a store.”



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