Footfall is the new currency in retail real estate

There are many ways to measure success. In retail, it is largely about increased sales, more volume or better margins. For shopping centres, the ability to attract people and demonstrate increased footfall is one of the key measurement criteria for shopping centre owners, investors and retailers. This measurement criterion will not diminish in importance anytime soon – quite the opposite, in fact. Footfall is the new currency for shopping centres in this continuously digital world.

How much shopping centres attract visitors is a key measurement criteria for success

Converting visitors to customers

Amongst retailers, the battle going forward is to convert visitors to customers in their respective shops. The winners will be those who have dared to invest in their people. For the shopping centre, it is the centre’s attractiveness that will determine whether they manage to retain and draw in the public. Hasn’t it always been like this, you might ask? Yes – but the rules of the game have changed and there are new requirements of us as shopping centre developers. 

Our way of thinking is changing, and we should maybe consider removing the word ‘shopping’ from the term ‘shopping centre’. Not because trade won’t take place there – it most definitely will – but because the opportunities for customers must be more relevant and based on drivers that mean something to them if they are to carry out a transaction there.  

Shopping centres must dare to differentiate.

Perhaps the shopping centres of today are too similar to one another, and we must dare to differentiate ourselves more in future. As developers, we may even need to more clearly define the role centres play in society. If we are to succeed in this, we must work using insight – and we have plenty of that. We have insight about the people who live and work in the markets we have established. From the macro perspective, we need to be familiar with changing consumption patterns – whether these are big and lasting shifts in how we use our time and money, or if they are shorter trends that herd us around in a flock to seek a certain product or service. 

It is just as important, however, to understand larger social and cultural developments; this must be done through good analysis. And after that? Well, we need to act.  

Thinking outside the box with new concepts

When, as a shopping centre developer – or in the future, perhaps even as an urban developer – we need to meet these challenges and create attractive meeting places that people want to seek out, it is precisely this acquired knowledge that will advance us. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be just the big, wild ideas, even if The Dudesons Activity Park at Iso Omena is a pretty crazy concept that contributes to 20 million or so visits to the centre in Espoo. It may simply be adding the library to the centre, as is the case at Stovner in Oslo. With its new location and inspiring design, the library has tripled the number of visitors and gone a long way in contributing to the more than 5 millions visits that Stovner centre has. While not revolutionary, these examples demonstrate how a shopping centre developer, like Citycon, can take new steps towards the future and succeed when they are familiar with their markets and dare to invest in something beyond traditional retail. The result is increased attractiveness and higher footfall. This also creates new value, because footfall is the new currency.