Editor's Letter: How to future-proof European retail

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Welcome to the latest issue of Retail Watch. There’s never been a more fascinating time to be taking up the baton as editor. 

 

I’d like to share some positive news – future-focused innovation, leadership and optimism are well and truly alive. While ample opportunities and game-changing initiatives clearly abound, it’s also a salient reminder to maintain steady pressure on the risk-limiting peddle.

With an eye on future-proofing retail, we’re examining the central role that technology plays in the future of phygical retail – where physical and digital expertise blend to reshape in-store retail innovation and consumer experiences. But we highlight that the sheer scale of retail’s investment in backend technology means that retailers have to be brave and super tech-smart with the choices they prioritise.

At the same time, the inevitable rise of US and Chinese commerce platforms is creating an immediate challenge – retailers of scale have to decide if they should partner, collaborate or compete with these dominant global players. We examine what’s at stake for the front-runners and laggards, and ask if European platforms have the scale to compete.

Sustainability is permeating every aspect of retail and retail real estate at a rapid pace. We explore how taking a leadership role and adopting credible business cases in championing sustainability have reaped attractive dividends. They rightly have, many would agree. But as Carrefour’s Sustainability Director Bertrand Swiderski tells us, meaningful retail transformation over the long term requires much more concerted and joined-up action for all retailers to secure a sustainable future.

The ongoing valuations malaise faced by some UK shopping centres is sounding an important wake-up call, but we ask if the rest of Europe is likely to receive a similar negative diagnosis. In our France country focus, we highlight that squeezed mid-market shopping centres face a potentially patchy future. But there’s a resilience and optimism among a new wave of French consumers that even the gilets jaunes or yellow jacket city demonstrations in France cannot dampen.

We’re seeing a renewed love affair with our city centres across Europe as retailers, landlords and property managers pull out all the stops to redefine landmark department stores as next-gen lifestyle hubs. The emphasis is on encouraging footfall by giving consumers diverse opportunities to live, work and socialise to the max in many iconic city centre locations.

Living well in Europe’s cities is encouraging a growing emphasis on demographic-driven mixed-use urban developments. Retailers like Hema are putting the value back into city centre retail appeal and convenience, as are high street potential newbies like Amazon Go. And operators are playing an increasingly vital role in enabling retail brands to captivate consumers’ hearts and minds with leisure-focused experiences that are shaping the future of consumer-centric retail. I hope you enjoy reading the issue.

All the best!

Anthony O’Connor, Editor