Expansion was in the air at the MAPIC conference in Cannes, held November 17-20.
Retail real estate developers from around the world proudly displayed new projects to retailers. SCB, a North American media partner for this year’s event, attended to see what projects developers were courting American retailers, as well as what American projects were courting European retailers. SCB also viewed the opportunity to get an inside glance at the global retail market. This year, the country of honor for MAPIC was the United States, and a number of U.S. developers and owners exhibited or attended to entice European retailers to their projects. Among them were Acadia Realty Trust, Vornado Realty Trust, Thor Equities, Related and Kimco. Real estate services and advisory companies with a presence in the U.S. also had a large presence, including CBRE, JLL, and Colliers International. Legal firms Goulston & Storrs and Brown Rudnick also had a presence at the show, as did other advisors like The Outlet Resource Group and executive search firm Millman Search Group. The number of U.S. companies exhibiting at MAPIC has rapidly increased over the past few years. In 2013, it was reported six companies exhibited, while in 2015 that number has grown to 29 of the 139 exhibitors.
Held in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, security at the Palais de Festivals in Cannes was high, with attendees going through several layers before being allowed to enter the venue. The added security was welcome to many attendees.
MAPIC held several U.S.-based educational sessions as part of this year’s conference. Many of the sessions focused on retailers expanding to the U.S., or U.S. retailers expanding internationally, and were intended for audiences seeking opportunities in the U.S. One of the European sessions focused heavily on outlets, the top growing sector on the continent. Panelists, which included American Lisa Quier Wagner of The Outlet Resource Group, stated that were at least 25 outlet centers under development in Western Europe, 11 in Eastern Europe, 11 in Asia, two in South American and 55 in North America. In total, there are currently an estimated 415 outlet centers worldwide, and 104 under development, not including hybrid outlet-full price centers in the U.S.
“Outlets are incredibly hot,” said Wagner. “After the recession, consumers recognized that they could get values on the brands they love. Sales are phenomenal and are outpacing online sales.”
A special session on opportunities in China was sponsored and presented by SCPG Retail, a Chinese developer who is partnered with Blackstone. Retail development in China is being bolstered by the growth of the country’s middle class, which, according to SCPG, will grow from 100 million to 235 million over the next five years. In 2008, there was 15 million square feet of mall space in China; that number is expected to grow to 100 million square feet by 2019. American retailers have been part of that growth. Walmart has 415 retail locations in China. Apple now has 21 locations. Under Armour has 64 stores open and has many openings scheduled. Other brands who have plans to open multiple locations in the country include Chipotle, J.Crew and Express, according to SCPG. Currently, reported the company, the only thing holding retailer expansion back is the limited supply of high quality mall space.
JLL presented a panel entitled “Retailing USA: Opportunity Awaits,” designed to discuss experiences of the entry of international retailers into the U.S. Featured on the panel was British retailer Superdry, an apparel brand who first began expanding in the U.S. via a franchise model. After opening 15 stores with its operator-partner, Superdry has rethought its entry and is taking its approach directly.
“We realized the stores were not representative of our brand,” said Nigel Jobson, head of group property for Superdry. The initial efforts were in high street locations in markets like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. Superdry is now focusing on leading malls in top U.S. markets.
Like many retailers who enter the U.S., Superdry at first struggled with brand identity, as many U.S. consumers had no knowledge of the brand or its price point.
“Brand identity is key for retailers entering the U.S.,” said Michael Hirschfeld, executive vice president, national retail tenant services with JLL, who also added that a retailer’s strategy must apply to different parts of the U.S. What works in Miami may not work in San Francisco or Dallas, for example.
Food as part of retail environments is a worldwide trend, and was highlighted many times over at MAPIC. A panel on November 19 called “À table,” running 90 minutes, was dedicated to food offerings in the retail environment. Among the concepts highlighted was O’Leary’s, a Swedish-based American sports bar concept that has more than 100 units across Europe; Margaritaville, the popular beach themed international restaurant chain. A session on the re-use of retail parks — as suburban shopping centers are known in Europe — featured Eataly, among other players. Eataly is developing large-format Italian restaurant and food retail venues worldwide from second generation space. Among the venues the company has used is a former theater in Florence, Italy, and a 100,000-square-meter former agrarian market in Bologne.
Interesting also at MAPIC were the technology products on offer this year to European attendees, many of which are headed to the U.S. as well. Among them was Chargebox, a charging station for mobile devices that keeps visitors at centers longer by offering free charging as an amenity. The crowd-funded concept is incredibly popular at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford shopping centers in London, where Chargebox has 23 units across the two centers. Coniq, a shopper loyalty program that ties in retail sales, has launched in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Where many mall loyalty programs have failed, Coniq has been able to attain a 70 to 90 percent adoption rate among retailers in the centers it has because of its mobile technology.
— Randall Shearin