Retail offers opportunities, not just challenges

WILLIAM KISTLER, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & MANAGING DIRECTOR EMEA, ICSC

william kistler, executive vice president & managing director emea, icsc

The retail sector has had a bad press and more than its fair share of challenges, but it is now on the cusp of a turnaround, William Kistler, Executive vice-president and managing director EMEA, ICSC, told Real Estate Day.

 ‘There is a growing sense that we are reaching a point in the disruption where investors see there are as many opportunities as there are challenges,’ he said. ‘I am hopeful that we’ll see a levelling out of the bad news, retailers closing down and so on.’

There is a turnaround in development activity taking place, Kistler said: ‘The repositioning of existing assets, which is taking over from new development, is what 2019 and 2020 are going to be about’.

It is important to keep track of new trends and changing consumer demands but also to have a long-term view, he said: ‘We are in a long game. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t see a dramatic erosion or improvement in activity in 2019. The challenges remain, but we as a global organisation have the advantage of being able to see what’s on the other side of the Atlantic.’

The US market, which is considerably oversupplied, has 5 to 6 times the retail space per capita that most countries in Europe have, he said.

Technology is helping in the transformation of the retail sector and in particular of the relationship between retailer and customer. 

‘The advantage the online guys like Amazon have had is their ability to capture information about their customers,’ Kistler said. ‘I think now you’re going to see that technology moving into the physical retail environment so that retailers in stores will have many of the same advantages that online retailers have. The ability to know their customers will become a real priority’.

Technology and its growing importance for the retail sector will be the focus of the upcoming 43rdISCS Conference in Barcelona in April. ‘We see ourselves as an umbrella organisation, having a voice in Brussels, sharing news and information and creating more of a community for the industry, facilitating dialogue between national organisations,’ he said.