A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the 3-day shopping centre asset management course, which is run by Bayfield Training. The 3-day event is targeted at giving attendees a full run through of the operations, management, marketing and financials around shopping centres.
I found the course extremely useful. It gave me the chance to sit at the other end of the table and understand what goes through the minds of shopping centre owners/asset managers when they are determining strategy or making key decisions on acquisitions, leasing and disposals.
Here are my key takeaways from the course:
1. There is no blueprint for a successful shopping centre
Mainland Europe and African shopping centres seemed to favour having a large supermarket as an anchor to their shopping centres, due to the shopping habits of their local population.
In the UK this is highly unconventional with a department store usually the favoured anchor. This is just one example of the lack of consensus across different geographies for what is a successful/optimal tenant mix.
2. Design is key to profitability (well not in all cases)
The shopping centre managers who presented to us during the course emphasised the importance of design in the success of their shopping centres. The layout has an impact on the rents charged, the types of occupiers attracted, customer flow patterns, impact of servicing the units etc.
One case example recently designed shopping centre in the EMEA region, upon completion noticed that there was only 39% of lettable floorspace due to the need for artificial trees and waterfalls!
3. Sustainability is becoming a key factor
In the more environmentally aware world we live in, sustainability is becoming a buzzword and this is no different in shopping centres. The importance of this can be seen in annual reports produced for all the major shopping centre owners, if you look back to 2005 it may have had a small mention under CSR or development plans. In the modern day corporate reports, it usually has a whole chapter dedicated to how owners are making their shopping centres more energy efficient.
The key challenge is with the use of green leases. The main concern amongst retailers is that all costs associated to sustainability may be passed down to them, so its key that in negotiations both parties are seen to benefit financially from the savings from lower energy use etc.
4. Car parks are essential
Typically a car park contributes around 5% of the total revenue collected in a shopping centre. This may sound like an insignificant amount, but when you think of the last time you visited a shopping centre, how big of an impact did your experience in the car park leave an impression on you?
The car park is the first thing a customer sees and the last thing a customer sees, so even if they found all the items on their Xmas list, the ticket barrier refusing to open or their car being boxed in will be their lasting memory.
5. Landlords and Retailers need to work closer together
A common complaint amongst the asset managers and owners on the course was the need for a closer, more transparent relationship with their retailers. A common pain point is the sharing of retail sales data with the owners. This is understandable given the rising competition with several retail categories, but it does limit the amount a shopping centre can do to make rents affordable and understand the tenant mix needs.
An example of an application of this relationship was a centre that had an oversupply of shoe shops; by sharing the sales data, the owner was able to move one shoe shop to another scheme, with fewer competitors. This improved the performance of all the shoe shops, but could only be achieved by the open information exchange.
6. Technology will be the differentiator in the future
In the current ever-changing world of technology, retail is starting to see adoption of new technologies. This will be a key element in the future of shopping centres, with shopping centre owners needing to adapt and keep up with their tech savvy shoppers and retailers.
Coniq, a data-driven marketing and loyalty program, showcased their latest tool that enables shopping centre owners to better understand their shoppers habits and behaviour in order to improve their decision-making.
Overall the course was a great 3 days where members were able to not only learn from practitioners within the industry such as Gary Burrows, Head of Property and Asset Management at Dana Holding.
An added bonus was the opportunity to discuss and debate both formally and informally with experts within the property space on the fundamental issues and challenges, this made it an inspiring learning experience.
For more details on the Bayfield Shopping centre asset management course you can click here. The next course is on 24th-26th February 2016.