Mapic - Europe’s premier retail property conference - certainly lived up to the billing this year with more retailers, more property investors, and more sun. The famous Cannes Croisette was awash with delegates doing deals, talking retail, and taking advantage of the weather for some al fresco lunching.
Fashion retailers were very well represented at the conference across all sectors – from value to premium. M&S were there for example – a retailer that has hit the headlines recently for their (in my opinion) very sensible initiative to reduce the number of clothing lines they stock - which has been a source of major confusion for their customers for some time. I would love to see M&S go a step further like many retailers (such as H&M) have successfully done and start to introduce lines designed by big name fashion designers. This would create more of a buzz around their stores and attract a younger shopper, which has been lacking at M&S in recent times.
Though my remit is global, paradoxically much of the interest I have had at Mapic is from retailers interested in the UK - and specifically London. Retail property consultancy Harper Dennis Hobbs recently launched a European retail centre ranking in conjunction with the International Council of Shopping Centres which ranked London as the number one centre in Europe by retail spend. Judging by the interest from global retailers we have had, London’s pre-eminent position is more than justified, with circa 50% of the retailer meetings I had focused on the UK capital. When referring to London though, both Westfield London and Westfield Stratford are included in this, and Covent Garden is increasingly being considered as a point of entry to the UK also, though the West End is still by far the key area of focus.
The scarcity of space in prime streets and high rents has led to a wholesale gentrification of some streets that in the past were peripheral at best. South Audley Street and Redchurch Street are good examples of this; the latter benefitting from the addition of Club Monaco, with a ‘game changing’ international retailer to come.
Despite a very London-focused Mapic for me, there were also meetings with retailers that wanted to discuss Germany, Sweden and the Benelux markets - all very strong markets right now - and I was particularly struck by the presence of a number of US brokers at this year’s Mapic. We are working with a major European brand that will soon make its debut in the US, and it is one of a number that are focused on US expansion, following the success of brands such as Topshop, Ted Baker, H&M, Karen Millen and soon Primark. Given this success, I guess it is no surprise that the US brokers are on the hunt for more.
Closer to home and as Christmas approaches, I am hopeful that retailers will hold firm and not panic discount prior to Boxing Day. Next is an exception to the fashion norm in that it is one of the only retailers that holds a Sale when it says it is going to – at least post-2008. Given we are now firmly out of recession (though clearly issues still exist) it is time for fashion retailers to really focus on maximising margin not grabbing market share – the temptation to discount over Christmas is compelling when your competitors start doing it, but a poisoned chalice when profitability is sacrificed.’