Big Guns time again; how the year flies by! It’s also ‘CEO Outlook’ time again.
There’s talk this year of the ‘Trump factor’, a lot about ‘Shopper Experience’, and of course, ‘e-commerce’. But in regards to the latter – the threat of Internet shopping to traditional retail – the mood is calmer.
One only has to go back five or six years ago and the comments in the CEO Outlook were about strategies to combat the internet threat; today they are more about harnessing the medium to improve sales. In a short space of time we’ve come to terms with the internet; we’re comfortable with it. Our view has changed from it being a potential destroyer, to a tool we can use to improve our business.
The issue of ‘e-commerce’ is inextricably linked to the oft-penned comment (in the CEO Outlook) regarding ‘Shopper Experience’. Whatever advantages the field of ‘online shopping’ may deliver, the human desire for social interaction, the appreciation and security derived from the senses – sight, touch, smell, taste – cannot be replicated. What we’ve come to realise is that we’ve been through all this before; the video was supposed to be the death knell of the cinema (and did for a time adversely affect it); before that, the vinyl record was mooted to destroy live concerts and the television, it was said, ‘will close the pubs’.
As many of you know, I spend much of the year in China working with shopping centre developers in that country. You get a real picture of these issues there, as everything is new in regards to shopping centre purchases and those via the Internet; 25 years ago there were no shopping centres in China.
On November 11 – ‘Singles Day’ – Alibaba recorded e-commerce sales of RMB 127.7 billion or some $23.4 billion in one day: that’s more than half the total ANNUAL sales for all Big Gun centres recorded in this issue!
But visit the shopping districts in any major city in China on the weekends and one has to queue to walk along the pavement! Social interaction, people gathering and sharing experiences is not just alive and well, it’s on the increase.
Another constant theme in this year’s CEO Outlook is the development pipeline. Investment in the redevelopment of our centres is strong and set to continue across the country for at least another few years. We’re fortunate inasmuch as we are part of a highly successful industry run by a group of professionals, with standards unmatched anywhere in the world.
Scentre Group’s Perth portfolio is under the spotlight in this issue – our Cover Story looks at its three centres in WA, Westfield Innaloo, Westfield Carousel and Westfield Whitford City. There’s an added dimension to the redevelopments in that they are being conducted ‘in tandem’ with major urban redevelopment projects undertaken in the city of Perth. That city is on the move. The wealth created during the mining boom has seen Perth transform itself from a somewhat sleepy, somewhat isolated large country town into a thriving capital city, which challenges Brisbane for the spot of the third largest city in Australia.
Urban renewal projects in Perth are some of the largest ever undertaken in this country and the role, and importance of, the Scentre Group’s shopping centres in these initiatives is fundamental to their success. It’s a compelling story and makes highly interesting reading for all in our industry.
And we can’t leave without a comment on the ‘Trump factor’. It’s all froth and bubble. The reality is that nothing has changed. Love him or loathe him; he’s just another far right wing politician with a hairstyle that cracks us up! He’s great stuff for the media that’s been starved of political ‘characters’ for a decade or so and it’s having a ball; so are we all. Give him another three months and he’ll get just as boring as the rest of them – unless of course, he shaves his head!