Covid-19 News

Measuring the impact of Covid-19 on the retail property sector

In November 2020, ECSP conducted a survey 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 has had on the industry.

Do you believe EU policymakers understand the challenges that shopping places are currently facing in the pandemic?

Do you believe EU policymakers are introducing appropriate measures to support the industry?

Has Covid-19 impacted your business:

Has a cluster of Covid-19 cases been identified or associated with any of your centres?

In terms of new health and safety measures, what have you prioritised since the pandemic begun? Please select the top three issues:

Has it been easy to understand and adapt to changing government measures that have been introduced in the markets in which you operate?

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on footfall to the centres that you are responsible for?

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the estimated turnover for the centres that you are responsible for?

What additional cumulative costs have you incurred as a consequence of Covid-19 related new measures you had to implement since the pandemic begun?

What other main challenges you have faced since the beginning of the crisis? Please select the top three issues

Do you anticipate continued uncertainty throughout 2021?

How will this uncertainty impact your business? Please select the top three issues:

How are you planning to mitigate this impact? Please select the top three issues:

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!

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!

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:

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
Covid-19 News

Impact of new Covid-19 measures on shopping places in Europe

Joint statement

Peter R. Wilhelm, Chairman of the ECSP Board, and Dominique Moerenhout, CEO of EPRA

For our members, the run up to Christmas is the most important time of the year. We have therefore noted with grave concern the rise of new Covid-19 infections. Public health and safety must always be everyone’s primary priority. Our members have consequently invested significantly in new procedures and products to protect the millions of people who visit our shopping destinations every day. While the new rules being introduced by governments across Europe this week are an important way of trying to manage this crisis, extended restrictions will however have a disproportionate impact on the retail property sector. To help safeguard up to 6.3 million European jobs we urgently call on the relevant authorities to ensure a level playing field across the retail sector, both online and offline, and to apply a tiered approach wherever possible, as soon as possible. Communities must have continued access to the things they need and want as we head towards the traditionally busy Christmas season.


The European Council of Shopping Places in conversation with Retail & Leisure International

ECSP’s Chairman Peter Wilhelm and Secretary General Joost Koomen joined RLI’s Jayne Rafter in a conversation that has been captured in a podcast.

Besides providing a comprehensive overview of ECSP’s purpose and plans for the near future, the discussion also touched on many other topics of interest, including post-pandemic recovery and related opportunities, the ongoing transformation of retail spaces into shopping destinations and how shopping places are embracing new challenges related to sustainability and digital transformation.

Listen to the full podcast here.


European Council of Shopping Places: new dedicated European trade association for retail property and mixed-use destinations launched

Represents sector that designs, creates, funds, develops, builds and manages places anchored by retail across Europe

The European Council of Shopping Places (ECSP) has been launched today in Brussels, providing a new and dedicated voice for the European retail property sector. It has been created following the decision by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in the fall of 2019 to cease its European activities. The ECSP provides a European voice for an industry that designs, creates, funds, develops, builds and manages places anchored by retail across Europe. This industry employs more than 6.3 million people, generates an annual turnover of €750 billion and represents almost 160 million m² of floorspace. ECSP membership will comprise companies and national associations and it will act as a go to platform and information hub to support the interests of its members and the communities they serve.

ECSP is being incorporated as an international non-profit association or AISBL (Association internationale sans but lucratif) under Belgian Law. It will promote the wider objectives and priorities of its members and will seek to focus on a number of activities that will include advocacy, events, research, and broader reputation and promotional activities. The new association will also host a number of active committees and working groups focussed on important core areas such as sustainability, research, public policy, security and property management and future trends.

The current Covid-19 crisis has hit the sector particularly hard, with the closure of hundreds of thousands of shops, stores, bars, restaurants, and places of commerce across Europe, an issue acknowledged by Peter R. Wilhelm, Chairman of the ECSP Board and CEO of Wilhelm & Co. Announcing the new association, he said: “At this crucial moment in time, Europe’s retail property sector needs a single, unifying voice that represents an industry in the midst of a fundamental transformation, that is increasingly converting pure retail spaces into ‘mixed-use centres’ matching the highest sustainability standards and adding many other activities to become genuine community hubs. These form an integral part of the urban fabric across Europe and the public, our customers, depend on us to shop, eat, socialise and to entertain themselves. As we look to the future and the road to economic recovery, we want to promote the values and aspirations of a dynamic sector that contributes so much to European society and which has often proved an important lifeline to many communities throughout this crisis.”

Joost Koomen, Secretary General, added: “The priority for our members so far this year has been to protect their teams and to work with their tenants during these very difficult times. However, as the pandemic has endured, the need for us to address the most pressing and imminent challenges currently being faced by our sector has become ever more acute. ESCP will work with our members, national associations, the European institutions, national governments and local authorities to promote and protect the sector.”

Commenting on its membership, Gontran Thuring, Chief Executive of the French CNCC, Conseil National des Centres Commerciaux, said on behalf of the different National Councils joining ESCP: “Our associations are committed to a national dialogue but also to a European one. We must have a public profile that transcends one single market, that brings collective value in terms of our concerns, expertise and future aspirations. Working alongside our colleagues in other markets we are better able to understand and share best practice, new innovations and trends, to influence emerging policy and to access the financial aid and support that is now being made available.”

ECSP has 15 members at the moment of its launch. Its founding members currently include some of Europe’s largest retail property development companies and investors such as ECE, SES Spar European Shopping Centers, Sonae Sierra, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Wilhelm & Co as well as the Italian Council of Shopping Centres (CNCC Italia). Furthermore, several other National Councils of Shopping Centres/Places have also already joined as members, including: the Austrian Council of Shopping Places (ACSP),  the Belgian and Luxembourg Council of Retail and Shopping Centers (BLSC), the French Council of Shopping Centres (CNCC), the German Council of Shopping Places, and the Portuguese Council of Shopping Centers (APCC). 

To date the ECSP has written to the European Commission asking it to consider three actions to help the retail real estate industry during the pandemic, including: consideration of the retail property industry in any financial or other supporting measures; setting up a specific EU Retail Relief Fund to financially support the entire retail industry as part of the EU recovery action plan; and consider how many member states are amending laws that allow rental payments in the retail sector to be cancelled or postponed. ECSP has also made a public commitment to stand ready to work together with the Commission and any other EU Institution or national authority to contribute in the best possible and most efficient way to the Roadmap and Action Plan for recovery.


We must share the COVID burden, but we cannot bear it alone

It is no secret that the current crisis takes place at a moment in a time when the sector is already facing massive challenges, notably due to the continuous surge of e-commerce and changing consumer habits.

Download the PDF here to read the interview with ECSP Secretary General Joost Koomen  on page 26 in the PRCH RRF Crisis Report Vol.4 2020.


A significant reduction in rents could trigger a domino effect, impacting the banking sector

It is important to bear mind that shopping malls as well as the rest of the commercial real estate sector are part of a larger ecosystem, which includes retailers/tenants but also investors and their shareholders.

Read the interview with ECSP Chairman and CEO of Wilhelm & CO, Peter Wilhelm here in Dinheiro Vivo, 13 July 2020.