With the arrival of the pandemic and the rapid growth of e-commerce, shopping centers had been put on investor blacklists.
New consumption patterns, the digital age and the fear of the coronavirus marked the end for many retail outlets, dragging with them shopping malls, however, there seems to be renewed interest in a new generation of malls appearing both in Greece and in Europe, amid a new wave of acquisitions.
A few weeks ago, the acquisition of the discount village McArthur Glenn in Spata was announced by Lamda Development, which aims to list its subsidiary Lamda Malls on the Athens Stock Exchange in 2023, while in Europe and the US shopping centers have entered a new growth phase.
In Spain, investment in retail stores in the first half of 2022 reached 1.1 billion euros, a 10% increase compared to figures for the whole of 2021. Most of the increase came from shopping center acquisitions, according to data by Savills, while in the US shopping centers wth large supermarkets that are anchor tenants attract strong investment interest.
Like many things during the pandemic, malls were forced to transform in order to survive. Shopping centers need to evolve in order to meet consumer expectations for a better experience and offer a greener performance, says Eri Mitsostergiou, World Research Director at Savills, in comments to Business Daily.
The previous shopping model that relied mainly on a mix of clothing stores, movie theaters and parking lots is no longer sufficient. The consumer experiences of the future require another, more complex and demanding use of organized retail stores.
Offices, medical and social services, even warehouses for last mile logistics are now housed under the roof of malls that aim for more customer convenience, placing more emphasis on stores, such as supermarkets, and on services that are not offered online, e.g. hairdressers.
This new recipe leaves much less room for high-end fashion clothing stores - a market share seen having less resistance to downward cycles. Operators have realized that anything that offers value to the consumer has a place in the new generation of malls provided that environmental conditions are met and their carbon footprint is reduced.
"Tenant mix of shopping destinations will evolve to diversify away from fashion to include convenience shopping, services, clinics, health centres, co-working, and even affordable housing in order to enhance daily footfall, community engagement and long-term viability," adds Mitsostergiou.
However, managing a mall is not the easy task it used to be. New funds are needed to make the spaces more flexible and environmentally friendly, while also being able to adapt to new trends that appear on and offline. At the same time, commercial real estate valuations are also changing, and timelines involving decades are becoming annual plans.
"Convergence of buyer and seller pricing expectations will be the decisive factor to unlock opportunities", underlines Mitsostergiou.
Recently Lamda Development CEO Odysseas Athanasiou announced new investments of 30 million euros for The Mall Athens with the aim of major changes that will boost the northern suburbs. But despite the changes and the new improved retail landscape, there remains a general cautiousness from investors. There are some funds that won't touch any investments in retail space.
Lamda's acquisition of McArthur Glenn is seen by analysts as a move to raise the company's valuation and make its stock more attractive before going public.
In Greece, there is still the argument among sector officials that there are relatively few shopping centers and that the market can take a few more. Data shows that there are 52 square meters of shopping centers for every 1,000 inhabitants in Greece, while in Italy and Spain they reach 212 and 203 square meters respectively. In Sweden, the number hit 665 square meters per 1,000 inhabitants.
With the acquisition of Mc Arthur Glenn, Lamda strengthens its leading position in the industry. According to analysts, the gross value (including debt) of its 4 shopping centers (The Mall Athens, Golden Hall, Mediterranean Cosmos, Mc Arthur Glenn) amount to 900 million euros. Meanwhile, if the 2 shopping centers that will be built in Elliniko (Vouliagmeni Mall and Marina Galleria) are added, the total gross value will reach 1.6 billion euros.