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Campaign Guest blog News

Guest Blog: A safer and better Christmas for all

Ana Moita, Head of Marketing Europe and New Markets at Sonae Sierra, a member of ECSP, explains how shopping places have adapted to the health and safety challenge this Christmas.

More than ever this year, safe retail spaces are essential in our towns and cities to offer a moment of Christmas escape. At Sonae Sierra, we put the wellbeing of visitors first to ensure that visiting our shopping centres is carefree, fruitful and fun. This year, that means adding in safety measures that support in-person shopping in a responsible way, while continuing to help our tenants in every way we can in all the shopping centres we manage across Europe.

Managing visitor flows to our shopping centres is more significant than ever at this time. As well as creating communication campaigns encouraging shoppers to buy their Christmas gifts early, we have also piloted queue management systems, plus online booking platforms for visiting specific stores safely and comfortably. This also helps our tenants dedicate time to shoppers’ needs.

For centre visitors that arrive by car, we have rolled out traffic control systems to give our clients access to real time information about vehicle flows and parking in our shopping centres. This is available on the shopping centre website, its mobile app and through Chatbots. The information is conveyed with a traffic light system: green means ‘waiting for you’; amber means ‘approaching limit capacity’; while red means ‘please visit us later’. We are also piloting a mobile tool called “your car is here”, to help customers quickly and directly return to their vehicles.

Some other innovative services were implemented to offer more comfort to clients; the drive-in service at car park for clients to collect the purchases done online or by phone. The concierge service whereby customers request on the website of the shopping centre the products they have selected and the concierge team buy and collect those products, being delivered in the drive-in area at car park or at home, on the scheduled day and time slot.

Information can also be fun, as demonstrated by the success of a Pepper robot, a friendly and helpful humanoid, launched as a pilot in Colombo for the Christmas period with more than 100,000 interactions since September. We have now a new one in Norte Shopping, that has registered 2,735 total interactions after just six days.

Meanwhile, we have been helping children’s dreams come true by offering a Christmas video call with Santa Claus in almost all shopping centres managed by Sonae Sierra in different countries. The initiative has been so popular that it is fully booked until Christmas Eve nearly everywhere.

It wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t think about the most vulnerable and needy members of our communities.  Some shopping centres have also selected a local charity to support via a special Christmas tree installation. The wishes of children are tagged on the tree; shoppers can buy the gifts mentioned and the centre delivers them to the institution.

Several centres are also taking extra special care of families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of Christmas food baskets, reflecting local traditions, have been packaged and delivered to those in the catchment area hit particularly hard by the health crisis.

More than ever, this Christmas we need to support each other!

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Campaign Guest blog News

Guest Blog: Helping customers enjoy the human experience this Christmas

We asked Luc Plasman, General Manager of the Belgian and Luxembourg Council of Retail and Shopping Centers (BLSC), what the response has been to his members to the Covid challenge and what he believes will help the sector to succeed beyond the pandemic.

For most people, Christmas is the one time of the year when they have the chance to gather with family and friends, but this year will be very different. The same applies to our Christmas shopping habits. In Belgium and Luxembourg there are several restrictions in place: everyone must shop alone, there is limited capacity in shops and social distancing and masks are mandatory. In addition, restaurants and bars are closed. All this results in much less social contact, undermining the community spirit as well as a direct impact on the retail sectors in terms of sales and footfall.

As with many sectors, these are also particularly challenging times for retail property owners, whose centres are often the heart and soul of many towns and cities across Europe. This is one of the many reasons why our shopping centre managers and their marketing teams have been particularly innovative in creating initiatives that reassure consumers that their centres are safe places to visit, whilst also promoting the Christmas spirit and the feeling of community. That’s why we have still put all our Christmas decorations up.

In terms of the health and safety measures that have been put in place, consumers have also been asked to space out their visits to shopping centres as much as possible over opening hours. Where authorities have allowed, centres are also open on Sundays.

During the first week after reopening nonessential shops, consumers behaved in a responsible way and, in general, followed the rules that have been put in place to ensure their shopping experience is safe.  

In order to bring consumers back to our shopping places once the Covid-19 crisis is under control, retailers and landlords must work together to tackle their respective challenges following the pandemic. The only way traditional centres will be able to compete against ecommerce and online platforms is if we work better together. 

Nevertheless, we are confident that the combination of well-managed, diversified and safe shopping places that continue to innovate will remain attractive to many consumers around Europe. Offering a physical shopping experience, that combines food & beverage and leisure elements, is what people appreciate. As humans we like to touch and feel and to look and see the things we want to buy. It is the experience that is our strongest proposition.

As a sector we remain confident of a promising future for our vibrant shopping places. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2021!

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Covid-19 News

ECSP Christmas 2020 survey

In November 2020, ECSP conducted a survey amongst its members looking at some of the main issues currently affecting the retail property sector.

Below you will find a summary of the main highlights from nearly 90 responses focused on the impact the covid-19 pandemic is having on the traditionally busy Christmas shopping period.

Do you support your government’s response to close shopping places in response to the recent spike in new Covid infections?

Do you think shopping places should be allowed to remain open in the lead up to Christmas?

Why do you think shopping places should remain open? Please select the top three issues:

How confident are you that you will have a successful Christmas in 2020?

Do you expect to be open over Christmas?

How are you preparing for Christmas?

How important is Christmas to your annual sales target?

How much do you expect Covid-19 could have an impact on your Christmas sales?

What percentage of your total number of visitors come to your centre(s) over Christmas?

How much do you expect Covid-19 could have an impact on footfall over the Christmas period?

Beyond sales and footfall, what will be the impact of a subdued Christmas on your business? Please select the top three issues:

What are you doing to mitigate against this impact? Please select the top three issues:

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Campaign News Podcast

Let’s Talk #1: Shopping Matters – Covid and Christmas

Welcome to the first in our series of podcasts from the European Council of Shopping Places and its members. This week Joost Koomen, the ECSP’s Secretary General, is joined by ECSP Chairman Mr Peter Wilhelm, who is also Chairman of Wilhelm and Co, a retail developer here in Belgium.

Its Christmas and shopping places across Europe are either shut or facing heavy restrictions.  The team discussed what it is looking like across Europe and how shopping places have reacted to the unique challenges they face.

ECSP · #1 Let’s Talk: Shopping Matters – Covid and Christmas