The management of a shopping centre represents a unique challenge within the field of property management. The manager needs to simultaneously identify, understand and satisfy the needs of consumers, occupiers and owners. The comprehensive management services for a space of these characteristics includes real estate and technical management, administrative management, as well as marketing and advertising.
The function of the shopping centre must go beyond the simple role of representing merely a place to shop, in that this can now be done online. The shopping centre must become the ideal place to meet, socialise, eat and have fun. The shopping centre also mirrors a changing society in which lifestyle and spending habits are evolving over time. This drives particularly dynamic management in order to successfully adapt to the aforementioned trends.
The phenomenon which has particularly led to the greatest change in consumer behaviour in recent times is the increasing use of technology. This change in behaviour refers not only to the manner and time at which shopping is undertaken, but also the form in which we relate to each other and choose to spend our leisure time.
In order to understand the pace of change we need only consider how we shopped ten years ago, how we do it now and imagine how it will be five years from now. This process of reflection involves the consideration of the reasons why we still go to shopping centres today. These reasons are not the same as those of a decade ago.
Within this context, the arrival of smartphones and e-commerce have created a new consumer who seeks multi-channel experiences, who mixes the physical and the digital and who is much more demanding than in the recent past. This profile will become ever more dominant due to the fact that substitute options are only a click away.
Understanding the consumer - their background, present and future, is the main challenge in the management of shopping centres, where users are now guests and must be treated as such. The manager has no option but to innovate to personalise the shopping experiences of their guests, surprising them in every contact (physical or virtual) which they make with them and, what is proving ever more complicated, differentiate themselves from competing centres by means of the unique nature of these experiences.
It is no longer sufficient just to have a unique retail offer. This aspect greatly helps of course. However, we already know that nowadays it is not essential to go to a shopping centre in order to do the weekly or monthly shop, it being possible to schedule this through a mobile or tablet for home delivery free of charge or, failing that, for the client to pass by and pick up goods from a collection point.
In other words, we already know that nowadays the biggest shopping centre is virtual: the vast majority of brands across all sectors are sold online. In order to compete with this, the manager has to create diverse experiences and unique environments. In order to achieve this, it is also necessary to make the most of technology. Thanks to this, we are able to get to know our visitors much better and interact and relate with them in a manner which is personalised and exclusive. Understanding technology as an ally rather than a competitor.
As a spin-off of the changing consumer profile, the retail mix of centres is adjusting to this new reality. Only a few years ago, the space occupied by restaurant premises in a shopping centre represented around 5% of total floor area. The current trend is for a minimum of 15% and, on occasions, this figure exceeds 20%.
Indeed, all concepts relating to leisure are evolving towards forms which are highly interactive and experience-based, rather than limiting themselves to the cinemas of first generation schemes which were commonplace only a few years ago. Shopping centre managers are alert to offering their area of influence this retail mix adjusted to current and future needs.
Naturally, managers must also remain very close to retailers and the owners of the centres. Acting as a team so that, working together, they achieve the creation of this global and, in turn, differentiated experience. This is because not all centres are equal, each is unique, each has to differentiate itself in terms of it´s offering of both physical and digital forms of consumption and the enjoyment of leisure time and entertainment.
In short, the role of the shopping centre manager is undoubtedly stimulating and entails great responsibility not only to the owner and the retailers, but also to its visitors, those guests to whom diverse, simple and comfortable experiences must be offered, whilst never forgetting the importance of surprising them.
Thit is what makes those of us who are lucky enough to work in the enthralling world of retail go in to work every day.
Head of Retail Asset Management