Retail Destination Live decanted the big issues and changes that face the retail and leisure sector for 2023 and beyond. Setting the scene with the economy and the cost of living crisis with a presentation from The Bank of England, the day developed with insightful, upbeat energy for market changes that were long overdue. From innovation and utilising data and creative solutions, which Covid accelerated, there was a great sense of community, with everyone thinking about the values their retail destinations represent.
A panel discussion addressed challenges on the ground, highlighting the rise in antisocial behaviour. Born out of the cost of living rises with people choosing between heating and eating, but also a rebellious hangover from the pandemic, which saw some shopping centres turn into something resembling nightclubs with takeaway drinks. Simon Whiting, Centre Manager of Mermaid Quay, said, “the opportunity to learn and understand can only enlighten us and make our centres better.”
Catherine Lambert, Director from Savills added, “these kids are going to be our employees in a few years, so it’s really our problem to get a serious grip on.”
Robert Goodman, Retail Director of Shopping Centres and Urban Opportunities at Landsec, highlighted the need to work closely with communities. Reaching out to local schools is an important part of Landsec’s strategy. We also “invest heavily in data to make sure we have the right resources,” he added. Physical demand is back, said Robert, so it is essential to attract new staff and also retain security officers, which can be challenging as their roles have a growing remit. “There are some real wins when you are outward facing with community engagement and more collaborative working.”
Victoria Nichol, Centre Manager of Merseyway Shopping Centre & Redrock Stockport, said that the current climate is challenging her to look at every single penny and be more creative. “Understanding our retailers and their challenges and taking pride in the fact that we look after these unique spaces – it’s about thinking outside of the box to make sure they are used and enjoyed to the maximum,” said Victoria.
The panel reminded the room of professionals – many with reduced marketing budgets – that sometimes these things come for free. Simon Whiting contributed a great example at his centre, Mermaid Quay, where Sam Ryder hosted a busking session. Simon did not know who the singer-songwriter was at the time, but TikTok engagement quickly enlightened him.
Data was a hot topic throughout the day and ART’s director Gareth Jordan brought it to centre stage in his discussion with Andrew Duncan, Head of Placemaking, Marketing & Communications at Realm. The session focused on learnings from outlet operators’ effective use of data with takeaways that translated across the whole retail property sector.
“We are a long way from the down and dirty 90s, trading on red POS and sensationalist marketing”, explained Andrew Duncan. Outlets have come of age as a mature market with success and experience to share.
Analogy-rich, topical images generated using AI prompted other industries that effectively utilise analytics. From a farm to a football pitch, the presentation visualised England football coach Gareth Southgate as a shopping centre manager to showcase hands-on management and active use of data and heat mapping to make decisions.
Andrew explained the narrative of change that is possible through a more collaborative culture built around shared insights and turnover leases to use everything they can to give the retail dynamic the best chance of success. “We turn the whole enterprise into one where initiative is rewarded,” he said.
The host, Darren Pearce, Centre Director at Meadowhall, asked Nick Peel, Managing Director at St James Quarter in Edinburgh to chime in on data ahead of his participation in the Future Gazing panel. Nick described how they created a performance culture, collecting sales data on a daily basis with analysis through Retail Advantage: “we were lucky to engage with Gareth early on” – that’s ART Software Group’s Gareth Jordan, not Southgate.