Last week started with the BCSC Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester. There was an air of optimism surrounding the event, and if anything, whilst not unaware of the risks, there was increased confidence that the economic recovery appears to have some traction and that the risk of a double dip is receding.
Signs of some development schemes were re-emerging (albeit reworked), and retail leasing deals looked to be back underway, amidst a general feeling that we are getting back to business. There was plenty of discussion around online retailing; the increasing need for lease simplification; the need for local government and local business to work more effectively together; and the acknowledgement that we are at the beginning of a period which will see significant change in the consumer and retail landscape. The debate, then, is live and underway. The industry is well aware of the challenges, but between now and BCSC 2011 a response will need to follow.
The week finished with the ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centres) Annual European Research Seminar in Amsterdam. Again, there was no denying that we are about to face a period of significant change. That the combined socio-economic and technological drivers will have inevitable influence on the physical retail environment was accepted. As at BCSC, the underlying message was that a response from retail and retail property owners to these changes will be needed. Online will not replace the human need to interact, and physical environments will still play a dominant role in the retail landscape but follow a ‘convenience’ or ‘destination’ strategy. Online will increase competition and in this heightened competitive environment, retail venues must continually adapt in order to provide the right mix of transactional retail and consumer experience.
Whilst the last ten years may have been about wanting ‘ more’ the next will be about wanting ‘better’.