Aleksandra Kožul, Communication Director External, Internal and Digital
The pandemic has brought many fundamental changes, including changing people’s habits of where and when they shop. And retail parks have been no exception. However, reports also show that over the past two years, apart from online shopping, where incredible growth has been recorded, consumers have also more often opted to visit retail parks, i.e., outdoor shopping centres. Retail parks have benefited specifically from their locations, which enables them to provide the possibility of easier parking, direct access to shops, fewer crowds, and a combination of supermarkets for buying daily groceries, outlets of popular brands and retail businesses offering basic services. It is these benefits that have led to them topping the list, not only for consumers, but also for investors and tenants. Our experience shows just that: the Serbian retail centre market isn’t oversaturated and many projects are being implemented or have been announced, especially in so-called secondary cities.
Extremely strong competition at all levels ensures that it’s no longer enough to have a good and diverse offer and a good atmosphere, as consumers are seeking much more than that.
A blend of shopping and entertainment continues to be enticing to both investors and shoppers. Likewise, it is becoming increasingly important for consumers that there is practicality, “care” and speed of service. Thus, the most success will come to those who offer visitors a personalised shopping experience without excessive stress. Retail outlets must be free of crowds, easily accessible, provide ample parking and units offering food and drinks, enable special offers etc. This level of service, which many industry experts compare to a “five-star hotel” service, means that customers can access all information and services via applications and thereby plan their next visit. Brands continue striving to reward customer loyalty while simultaneously transferring to precisely these kinds of multichannel retail outlets that providing the possibility of ordering and collecting, delivering and returning goods.
E-commerce is this year expected to account for approximately 26% of total sales, while the remainder of retail sales will continue to be conducted via physical outlets.
Analyses of consumer habits in Serbia also show that the majority are not yet ready to shop online. This isn’t just related to consumers’ desire to see and try goods before buying, but rather due to problems in terms of delivery delays and errors, as well as projected environmental dangers as a result of ever-increasing stockpiles of goods. According to the most probable scenarios, in accordance with the requirements of “safe shopping”, online and physical sales will continue to be integrated: goods will be purchased online, then collected from one of the local shops. Many people are already seeking information online before shopping, thereby simplifying the service provided in the actual retail outlet.
In some Western countries, but also developed cities of the Far East, the monitoring of consumer demand is leading to the development of hybrid store formats, and even self-service vending machines. This all serves to demonstrate that retailers will face new organisational challenges, particularly when it comes to the redistribution of resources and the professionalisation of logistics, but also as in the development of business strategies. Of course, this period has also shown that the most success will come to those who are ready to make quick operational changes and adjustments without reducing the quality of their offer and service.