Another great issue and running through it all – ‘community’.
There are still some sceptics out there; I know because I meet them. Yes, there are still some decision-makers in our industry who merely pay lip-service to community issues and who haven’t yet come to the realisation that fundamentally, at the very core, the seed from which everything grows in our industry, is community.
Our Cover Story this issue is HomeCo. It’s a fascinating story because it reports on the emergence of a new category of shopping centre; some 30 odd centres across the country that don’t conform to any classification. They are not Mini, Little or Big Gun centres, they aren’t discount centres and they’re not neighbourhood centres either. They are in a class of their own!
While writing the story, I met with David Di Pilla and some of his team at HomeCo. A great bunch of people; very experienced, and totally focused on what? No prize for picking it; ‘community’.
‘Who’s Who in Investment’, profiles four leading Fund Managers; their focus – Community.
The Design articles, as usual, have the ‘community’ theme running through them. In ‘marketing’ there’s an article from Mirvac ‘Connecting with Communities through art and culture’; it doesn’t stop…
Instead of ‘shopping centres’, perhaps we should call our properties, ‘Community Centres’; there’s leverage in a name! Think of the effect that might have on a young, newly qualified graduate, coming into our industry for the first time as a junior leasing executive; she or he arrives at work on the first day and goes to the ‘Community Centre’. Leasing space in a community centre; what’s the mindset? Interesting?
What we know is that change is rapid. What our centres will be in the future we do not know; what we do know is that ‘the future’ isn’t decades away; it’s the next five years or so. That’s the reality; that’s what we need to think about.
If you look at any industry reliant on discretionary income (as is ours), none have faced greater threats than the cinema industry. When TV first appeared in black and white, everyone said the cinema was doomed; it survived. When colour TV came in, again everyone said now it was doomed; it survived. Then video arrived – VHS, Betamax and ultimately DVD – video stores on every corner and 98% of households with a video player; that surely spelled the end for the cinema; it survived.
And then there was the internet; Fox On Demand, Netflix, Stan, and a host of others; simply viewing, downloading or streaming anything that’s at the cinema, sometimes even before it arrives there, and all in the comfort of your own home at a fraction of the price; that’s got to be the final nail in the coffin. Not so; cinema is stronger than it’s ever been! (see ‘Inventing the future of the cinema’ article by Tyrone Dodds from HOYTS).
And why is this? Simple; we are a gregarious species; we like to congregate, to socially interact, to mix, to be amongst each other, to people watch, to meet, to share with, to be seen. For Millenniums, the most common form of social interaction has been retail; in the early days, the primitive markets; later on, the high streets and department stores and now, the shopping centres. All geared towards traditional retail, but until very recently, all catering to ‘non-discretionary’ spending.
And this is our challenge – the challenge between discretionary spending and traditional non-discretionary spending. What we did was we hijacked traditional retail; we provided the traditional retail industry with superior facilities and moved them from the high street to our centres. We stole the traditional retail (non-discretionary spending) but we didn’t realise it came in a box and the box was worth more than the contents; the box was ‘social interaction’. Today, discretionary spending is far in excess of non-discretionary spending, but we still need to socially interact whilst spending it; and where do we do that? In our community focal points of course.
Alibaba, the largest and most powerful ecommerce outfit on the planet is going to develop more than 100 shopping centres in China over the next five years. They know about online shopping; they know about ecommerce; they know about distribution, collection, returns and retail technology. They also know about social interaction and community!