Taking a long-term bet on global retail trends – Mapic 2014

Retail’s annual real estate event Mapic came to a close in Cannes last week and as always it offers a fascinating long view on the trends that are impacting the industry. Real estate investors and mall developers are dealing with just as many fast-paced changes as individual retailers and taking long-term bets on retail space that in some cases won’t come online for another 10 years.

This year’s Mapic marked a renewed confidence in the long-term prospects for physical retail space and some interesting moves in the blurring of physical and digital. Last year the focus was very much on ‘redefining the shopping centre’ as reported here – a debate that continued this year, but with greater clarity on how to do that.

Experiential: A major theme to emerge was experiential, or as retail real estate developers like to dub it: ‘retailtainment’. Leisure is well understood as a driver to increase shopping centre dwell time and to increase the frequency of visits. But developers are also taking the ‘retail as theatre’ mantra to heart as they look to forge emotional connections with visitors.

Mexico’s KidZania continues to make an impact and its role-playing for children concept will soon arrive in the UK, at Westfield London. It’s a good way to nail the creation of memorable experiences, especially for families.

The retail/cultural connection is a trend we’ve been tracking on WGSN for a while now, and K11 in Greater China is a great example of how to integrate art and culture with shopping. In Europe, developer Unibail-Rodamco outlines its plans for a sculpture art trail through its new Polygone Riviera centre in Cagnes-sur-Mere in France.

Destination retail: Taking retailtainment one step further is destination retail with developers backing hospitality and leisure options as ways to draw a crowd. In Europe, a mixed-use project in Malaga will combine retail, leisure and hotels with an artificial ski slopes, mini theme park and surfing lake as the entertainment option.

In China, Jihua Park (a state-backed venture from the Jihua Group) continues to expand in historical cultural locations in the country with hotels and retail sitting alongside sporting experiences such as skiing, free climbing and surfing. This bodes well for the group, which is responding to an ever-increasing appetite among Chinese consumers for travel – and with many Chinese still unable to travel abroad due to visa restrictions, this taps into the growing idea of travel as a status symbol for the increasingly experience-hungry Chinese consumer.

Blurring of physical and digital: Visitors to Mapic were buoyed by a CBRE survey released during the show. The real estate consultancy polled 32,000 shoppers in 32 countries and confirmed that 79% still visit stores to buy products (anecdotally some 90% of transactions are understood to be made in store). The survey also found that consumers use click-and-collect services offer in-store pick-up every three weeks on average.

The CBRE survey also showed that close to a third (30%) of global consumers use mobile phones to compare prices and product details, with a stronger showing of this behaviour in Asia Pacific – a reminder (if needed) of the role of mobile in shopping journeys.

In China, the behaviour is especially strong with 49% of consumers using a smartphone to make a purchase, which goes some way in explaining one of the more intriguing partnerships to be announced at the show. Chinese shopping centre developer Wanda Group is to launch an ecommerce joint venture search giant Baidu and Tencent Holdings, owner of the increasingly ambitious WeChat mobile chat service.

Definitely one to watch.

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