BR sat down with Fulga Dinu, country manager for operations at Immofinanz Romania, about the local retail market’s adoption of new international trends and the areas that have remained unexplored on the Romanian market.
By Anda Sebesi
One of the obvious trends on the local market is the online-offline mix and the creative ways of adapting the online concept to the offline world. Can you please develop this idea?
Our entire world is rapidly digitalizing and we need to adapt to this global trend. An important point refers to consistency in communication, both online and offline, taking into account that the new generation of buyers no longer sees any difference between online and offline shopping.
At the moment, many brands have both online stores and physical stores and have understood that these two channels need to be complementary in order to further develop. There are several techniques that companies use to adapt the online concept to the offline environment, and one consists of creating awareness for a product online and offering certain bonuses when the purchase is made in the physical store. Similar approaches are the in-store pick-up of products bought online or the option to return those products in the store, and vice versa, namely customers being able to place orders online while they’re in the physical store.
Another trend is the shift towards creating an experience in the store. What does this shift imply and how is it translated to real estate projects in Romania?
The development of technology heavily impacts consumer behavior; therefore, our customers’ wishes have become more and more sophisticated and have moved from providing a product to offering a service or experience. The biggest challenge for retailers nowadays is to keep improving the retail customers’ experience and truly capitalise on the advantages the offline environment offers compared to the online world. From this point of view, factors like the fragrances, sounds, and human interactions that can be found at a store are hard to replace.
As a retail landlord, IMMOFINANZ is very much focused on creating good quality experiences that are supplemented by leisure areas, children’s playgrounds and family areas. Based on the diversity of the services provided, our VIVO! shopping centres have become real hubs for the communities they serve. And it is our goal to support the development of the communities we are part of.
What are the main growth drivers of the current Romanian retail scene and what are some of the unexplored areas?
The recent economic landscape has been favourable to retail consumption. A higher purchasing power has definitely brought significant increases to Romanian food and non-food consumption. One of the best examples would be the newly-refurbished area in VIVO! Cluj-Napoca, which has attracted famous international brands like Peek & Cloppenburg: the performance of the first such store in the Transylvanian region has already gone beyond expectations. In terms of unexplored areas, as far as shopping centres are concerned, the focus should be placed on the needs of the entire family.
Recently, almost all retail centres in Romania have been transformed into entertainment platforms by balancing shopping and leisure facilities. In your opinion, what is the next step in this direction on the local market?
Entertainment definitely plays a major role in shopping centres, and customer experience can be improved even further with the implementation of new technological developments. As for the shopping experience, retailers will continue to digitalize the shopping process, in order to customise it for each and every one of their customers. Last but not least, retail centres should be pillars of their communities by offering support and resources for cultural, educational and social activities. So far, IMMOFINANZ has proven to be a proud partner of the Romanian communities where it operates its shopping centres.