We've seen retail destinations start to open up around the world and some relatively encouraging figures around customer footfall albeit even the most optimistic of us should need little reminder about the need to question statistics...
Whilst there will be debate about the timings and the political reasons for easing restrictions for now Retail and Leisure sector has taken its pause and is now, in part, open for "business".
Clearly the immediate future will be about ensuring that as many operators can open safely and securely but long term planning for existing and future developments cannot wait in what could develop into a fast changing market with winners and losers being decided quicker than the 3.30 at Kempton Park.
The seismic changes were already well underway with schemes being redesigned and repurposed to cope with changing consumer demands and living in the COVID-19 world has made the pace of previous change seem wholly pedestrian - a label often correctly associated with the world of real estate.
What we are already seeing are the moves to re-purpose the unwanted retail space pick up momentum with Westfield being in the news this week announcing the conversion of what would previously have been classified as "anchor tenant" into co-working space. A far cry from the days of John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser et al being at the core of every shopping centre. Traditional office HQ worker numbers will reduce dramatically, huge numbers will now look to work from home for far more than just 1 or 2 days per week and with these changes will come opportunities.
The new consumers will care more than ever about high speed internet connections with air and water quality, clean energy, energy efficiency, light levels and connectivity with bike and footpaths being just a part of their decision making processes. Its depressing to think that the majority of buildings have, for so many years, not been designed primarily with the health of the humans who use them. That must surely change.....
Just as there may always be a demand for organisations to have an HQ / Head Office there will similarly be a market for physical retail as part of a wider mixed use environment but the demand for co-working / flexible space, meeting spaces, entertainment venues and retail all with the consumer experience at the core of their physical design and occupational use will surely now grow and grow.
However, a virus that restricts retail on a worldwide scale was not part of the reasoning for Viktoria Karree’s design. It was already clear that future-oriented shopping centers have to open themselves towards their cities and their residents. After all, “inner cities can do almost anything better than malls–and they are more attractive in most cases,” says Christoph M. Achammer. “We have to find out as quickly as possible how we can realize large-scale shopping environments in inner-city structures.”