Malls must move beyond shopping to survive in Internet era

Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:51am EDT
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By Tom Bill

CANNES, France, March 17 (Reuters) - As growing numbers of shoppers move online, European mall owners are looking to pull in customers by including services that can't be replicated on the Web like hospital care and government offices.

Malls must become more like full-service community centres to survive in the face of a growing list of failed retailers like HMV and Blockbuster, property experts at the annual MIPIM trade fair in Cannes, France, told Reuters.

On the flip side of that retail revolution, the experts see big gains in warehousing as more goods are sent and returned via post.

"The days of the stand-alone mall are numbered," said David Roberts, the chief executive of architect Aedas, one of the five largest practices in the world. The company has been involved in city masterplan projects in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

"In 20 years time you will find stores that sell books and DVDs replaced by sites that give people a reason to go the mall ... art galleries, education centres and health and spa treatments."

Florencio Beccar, fund manager of CBRE Global Investors European shopping centre fund, cited the recent purchase of a mall in Germany, saying the fact it included a large medical centre was "a big plus".

"I once saw a clinic in a Brazilian mall where you checked in and are buzzed on a device when they are ready. In the meantime you go shopping," he said. "With the ageing population in Europe you can see that happening more and more."

CBRE Investors, which has about 14 billion euros ($18.2 billion) of retail property under management in Europe and 5,000 tenants, also owns a mall in southern Sweden with a library and a local municipal office, he said.   Continued...