London Means Business
Specialty retail in London–and Europe–is taking advantage of innovative new concepts and temporary leasing strategies to bring dynamic new experiences to shoppers.
They come for a new pair of winter boots, a pair of jeans from The Gap and some new lipstick from the department store make-up counter. But what they find when they arrive at the London shopping center is an opportunity to buy a new cellphone case from a kiosk or experience Google’s Innovation House pop-up shop. These are exciting times for shoppers in the UK and throughout Europe, as shopping centers embrace the chance to utilize temporary space for new brands that deliver new experiences. As customers become savvier, shopping is equally about the experience as it is about the product.
“Perceptions of retail have changed,” says Ross Bailey, founder and CEO of Appear Here, a specialty retail and brand management space-leasing firm headquartered in London. Appear Here has been responsible for pop-up store launches such as a Marc Jacobs Daisy store, Weight Watchers Restaurant and Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube that all used social engagement for marketing their products. According to Bailey, consumers around the world are seeking experiences and the rewards of discovering things for themselves. “We are seeing more farmer’s markets in the UK than Tescos (a UK department store). This new growth is because people don’t want the same bland cookie cutter shopping experience. They want entertainment, discovery, conversations and story,” Bailey says, whose goal is to make retail ideas travel globally.
The specialty leasing/commercialization world throughout the UK and Europe has grown and has dramatically matured. “The industry has grown quickly in the last decade in the UK and in European countries such as Germany, Spain and Portugal,” says Julia Langkraehr, the founder of Retail Profile Europe, and Bold Clarity, a company that supports the growth of entrepreneurs through leadership, training and development.
“In other European countries such as France, there are varying degrees of sophistication and use of the common areas,” she says. She also observes that more brands, restaurants, and digital companies are jumping on the trend of pop-up shops. “Our industry has been doing temporary [leases] in the common area for a long time and now these companies are catching on to the value of short term [leases]. Our goal is to try to get some of these pop-ups that are happening in street shops and stores to look at the option of using shopping centers,” she adds.
Like the U.S. specialty retail marketplace, services such as nails and eyebrow-threading remain popular. Grab-and-go food such as Bubble Tea and French macaroons are sellouts.
Currently, one of the UK’s best selling products is “The Mighty Boom Ball,” a kiosk selling pocket-sized vibration speaker systems that can turn anything into a massive sound system. The Lovely Little Gift Shop, a retailer that sells products from ethical suppliers and offers a range of gifts and furnishings from artisans around the world is a strong producer. Additionally, Minnie’s Bowtique, started business in 2012 using social media and by 2014 opened a retail business on a mobile kiosk selling baby clothing and hair accessories.
What exactly do the UK specialty leasing and space managers hope for in the future? Langkraehr thinks shopping centers need specialty leasing now more than ever. “Retailers like Mango and Zara are changing their merchandise every 3-4 weeks. We need to keep our common areas looking fresh and new by changing the temporary offerings, even if it is just practicing rotation. Things must look new,” she says.
Bryony Crowther, Founding Director of Asset Space, thinks the specialty leasing market has matured in the UK in terms of the level of income available to generate out of the same space. “Things have shifted over the years to give far more definite focus on customer experience and dwell time enhancement,” she says.
“One of the biggest areas of opportunity and potential is outdoor commercialization activity. Outdoor, uncovered streetscape villages and shopping parks are being developed,” she says, “… it is likely that as the owners work to soften these venues to improve customer friendliness, they will come to the fore for more non-core income and viable alternative brands and retailers to utilize.”
Crowther believes centers and commercialization teams have become better at packaging the shopping center medium and more strategic in presenting the space with an eye on budgets. As a result, promotions are more sophisticated and for a targeted audience.
According to Crowther, cellphone accessories are the financial leaders in the specialty leasing space. “The kiosks are getting better and better, and the rents offer one of the best returns from a mall kiosk unit in the market.”
Crowther says that these days you hardly ever see a shopping center being built without a leisure component—cinemas, restaurants, and kids’ play areas that are designed to increase dwell time in centers. Asset Space was among the first companies to introduce miniature golf in a shopping center. She has been successful creating other such projects including a Hawaiian Boardwalk and Grill, a Winter Wonderland, Easter fun zones and urban beach areas all created to generate income for the asset owner; increase shoppers’ time spent in the property and spend more
money per visit.
Crowther imagines three to five new mall retail opportunities will emerge yearly as the economy improves, and if advertising budgets increase, it will lead to growth in brand spending and experiential marketing events in the malls. All in all, the future looks rosy. A little creativity and thinking outside the box always help.