Geanina Ungureanu, IMMOFINANZ, will be a speaker at BR’s re:FOCUS on eCommerce, Retail & Logistics

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 04/01/2022 | 12:56

Geanina Ungureanu, Senior Asset and Leasing Manager Retail at IMMOFINANZ, returns as a speaker at re:FOCUS on eCommerce, Retail & Logistics 2022 edition, after also being part of BR’s landmark retail & logistics conference in 2021. For this occasion, Business Review sat down with her for an exclusive talk previewing the topics which will be discussed at the event in February 2022.

 

How did the pandemic continue to influence the segment of the shopping centers from the point of view of tenants and footfall this year?

The sanitary crisis has definitely affected the majority of our tenants, but at the moment, the traffic is recovering in our VIVO! shopping centres. In this case, we talk about the lack of predictability, and the fluctuations of both tenants’ activity and footfall based on the different safety measures implemented by the authorities locally or nationally. Before the introduction of the green certificate as mandatory for access in the shopping centres, food courts were open only for take-away (or functioned at 30% capacity) and the entertainment lacked completely. Based on the incident rate, the access of visitors or certain retail segments have been conditioned by different safety and health measures.

On the other hand, the pandemic has generated a noticeable growth of online, but this does not mean that offline will be completely replaced by online. People still need to interact with their brands in offline. The biggest challenge of retailers nowadays is to continue to improve the customer experience and make the most of the advantages offered by offline compared to online. From this point of view, factors such as smells, sounds and human interaction that only offline offers are difficult to replace.

 

Was the purchasing behavior of consumers in the pandemic maintained also in 2021?

In 2020, we noticed that shopping behavior was more targeted and consumers spent less time inside the centers as they came to buy what they had on their lists. Regarding the products, the consumers were paying more attention to local businesses. In 2021, as soon as the restrictions were relaxed, we noticed that people missed spending time in the entertainment and food areas which were closed most of the time in 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Also, we were happy to see that people still like to shop fashion and beauty in stores.

A major trend among Romanian consumers was the reduction of budgets for non-essential expenses, and the pandemic has caused considerable changes in terms of purchase criteria, quality becoming the main factor, followed by price. The volume of purchases has increased, with a migration to local products at the expense of imported ones.

 

What level did footfall reach in your shopping centers this year? Did it return to the level before the pandemic?

In spite of the pandemic and its lockdowns, we have recovered the footfall registered before pandemic. We are confident that shopping centres will remain the main shopping destination for Romanians, and from this point of view, we are preparing and adapting them to the new market conditions.

The most recent example is the refurbishment of VIVO! Baia Mare following the modernization process of VIVO! Cluj-Napoca in 2019. Future refurbishments include VIVO! Constanta and VIVO! Pitesti.

 

How do you see the evolution of shopping centers in Romania in the next year taking into account 2 scenarios: The continuation of the pandemic at the same pace (intermittent waves) or its extinction at a certain time next year?

Flexibility and adaptability are the keywords nowadays. No matter what scenarios we’ll face, we will proceed to our strategy which is to continue the investment on the Romanian market and modernize the retail properties according to the latest and highest standards. We plan to further develop our VIVO! portfolio through these upgrades, but also take into account STOP SHOP, our retail park brand. Most likely this will be the main trend of the next period – the focus on medium and small cities, the format of convenience, neighborhood and the creation of communities’ shopping centers where the diversity of services, the safe areas dedicated to families will be paramount for customers.

The company is not only on a growth course throughout Europe with its innovative office and retail solutions but is now expanding its real estate offering to also include affordable and sustainable housing. With Top on STOP, single-story STOP SHOP retail parks will be overbuilt to create low-price, resource-friendly housing and to create up to 12,000 new apartments over the medium-term. This latest innovation represents a further contribution by IMMOFINANZ to the fight against climate change, ground sealing and the explosion in housing costs and opens up new earnings opportunities while, at the same time, optimizing risk.

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 02/08/2022 | 10:15

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