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Vanessa Orth, The GPT Group

See Vanessa Orth speaking at the Big Guns lunch – video below

The benefits of collaboration

In 2016, GPT will be focused on building deeper relationships with our customers by finding new ways to collaborate with them and realising the mutual benefits of these partnerships. We need each other, if we are to not only survive but thrive in today’s ever changing retail environment. Almost two years ago, GPT took the distinctive step of identifying its key retail customers and mapping their journey, to better understand their experience and how we could relieve their pain points, better service them and make our respective businesses more successful. This year we are building on that by focusing on how we can work better together with our customers, sharing knowledge and information to drive the performance of their stores and subsequently our shopping centres.

Enabling cross promotion and unique customer experiences

Speaking at the National Retailer Federation’s BIG Show in January, Gap’s global lead of consumer engagements and partnerships, Tricia Nichols, explained how fresh and creative cross-promotion between brands would drive return on investment and allow Gap to reach customers in new ways. She emphasised that, sometimes, the most lucrative collaborations can be with brands outside your own category. As a shopping centre owner and manager, the opportunity for GPT is to create the environment for these cross-promotional initiatives to take place.

An example of this being done successfully is the cross-promotional partnership that is taking place on the rooftop of Melbourne Central where we opened St Jerome’s – The Hotel in May last year. The brain child of local entrepreneur Jerome Borazio, the five-star campsite on a rooftop in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD is among the first of its kind in the world.

It wasn’t just about activating an unused space on the rooftop. GPT has facilitated collaborations between the hotel and our customers so their brands and products can leverage off this unique experience. At the time of writing, St Jerome’s is the number one hotel destination on TripAdvisor for the Melbourne CBD, beating out iconic brands like the Hilton, Sofitel and Four Seasons.

From in-room service and product placement to special VIP discounts, Melbourne Central retailers are at the forefront of St Jerome’s – The Hotel experience. A total of 17 Melbourne Central retailer brands and products are seamlessly integrated into the hotel. It is a collaborative effort throughout the hotel experience – from the friendly staff dressed in Gorman and Nique, to Grill’d providing room service, Samsung integrating their technology and Mecca providing luxury treatments to visitors. Guests, if they wish, never have to leave the premises for the duration of their stay. By co-creating the hotel, Melbourne Central has positioned itself at the forefront of customer interaction, providing pioneering and engaging experiences.

Taking the digital journey together

The work that GPT has done to map the shopper journey and understand how to drive visitors to our centres, and engage them when they get there, can yield information that is just as critical for us as it is for our retailers. In 2016, we are exploring further opportunities to collaborate with our retailers using the data and insights collected from the ever-expanding suite of digital technologies being trialled and rolled out across our centres. From free Wi-Fi data collection, in-centre app usage and website visitation there is a wealth of information that allows us to provide a more customised shopping experience for our guests, and a business environment that is focused on delivering results for retailers.

GPT’s Rouse Hill Town Centre has proved to be the ideal location for us to trial cutting-edge in-centre initiatives and technologies. Two of the particularly successful innovations trialled here include SkyFii and Pronto. SkyFii is delivering a high-grade, free public Wi-Fi service across the centre, and providing us with invaluable information and insights into shopper behaviour, which is helping shape how we cater to shoppers and support our retailers. Mobile app Pronto allows shoppers to connect to vendors offering food and beverages so that they can pay directly from their mobile device. Pronto cuts down the time guests have to wait in food court lines, offers food retailers another way to engage and provides simple, convenient ordering.

These technologies enhance the shopper experience, while providing a significant opportunity to overlay these insights with other data we have. Through the use of data we have gained insight into the impact of weather, marketing campaigns, new store openings and major capital expenditure and how it influences market share for our assets. The integration of this data is crucial in helping us assess the return on investment for in centre marketing and branding activities, as well as capital investments and choices around retailer mix.

For example, using data collected from our guests, we have been able to determine with accuracy that a $13,000 gift with purchase campaign run over 10 days at Rouse Hill delivered an uplift of $250,000 in additional sales, whilst hosting a major one-day community event that drew 1,000 additional visitors to the centre, actually led to a reduction in market share on that day. We can respond to this in future by being more targeted in our marketing, maximising the potential of community events to drive sales and ultimately market share.

Growing together

In 2015 we grew our partnerships, having attracted international flagship retailers such as cosmetics giant Sephora and South African fashion retailer MRP, which chose Melbourne Central as their entry point into the Melbourne market. At Highpoint, we showed how value can be added working within the existing footprint of a centre, when we delivered a remix and redevelopment to open a casual dining and entertainment precinct with a diverse mix of authentic Asian restaurants and Strike Bowling, which has been well received by the local community.

New partnerships in 2016

GPT anticipates another strong year ahead in 2016, with strategic capital investments in the portfolio to continue to enhance the quality of our centres. More international retailers are set to join us on the journey. Developments are underway which will introduce new international flagship retailers to Charlestown Square in the NSW Hunter and Wollongong Central in the NSW Illawarra. The creation of a dining and leisure precinct will also continue the evolution of Casuarina Square in Darwin into a true town centre. Seven first-to-market food retailers will be introduced as part of the exciting changes taking place this year.

Sharing in future success

The performance of GPT’s shopping centre portfolio in the year just gone was the strongest recorded in a decade. The Group’s retail portfolio sales growth was among the highest of its peers, with the specialty retailers in our centres recording growth consistently tracking at a strong 6.5% to 7%. That sales momentum was driven by good performance in the categories of Homewares and Retail Services, while sales in Apparel have also continued to improve. The result was driven not only by positive consumer sentiment in the trade areas that we operate, but is also attributable to the ongoing commitment of GPT’s management team to work with our retailers to drive shopper engagement and increase foot traffic.

GPT will be leveraging the strength of its in-centre activations and shopper data to continue to build upon key retailer partnerships and continue the sales momentum throughout 2016. It will once again be a journey that we will take with our retailers, as we work more closely than ever to share in our success.

About the author

Vanessa Orth

Head of Retail, The GPT Group

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