This year’s MAPIC hosted over 5,000 participants, including exhibitors and participants from 75 countries. Whilst European exhibitors maintained a strong presence, the growing importance of the Middle East and Asia was reflected in the growing number of exhibitors and participants from these geographies, including those from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Uzbekistan.
With 2022 as the first year of MAPIC’s fully-fledged return post-pandemic, the atmosphere has been optimistic and energetic, with people looking forward to the experience of in-person retail and interactions. Whilst challenges such as rising energy prices and interest rates remain, exhibitors, retailers, and participants at MAPIC 2022 displayed development projects and innovations that painted an optimistic picture for the future of retail real estate.
MAPIC kicked off on this optimistic note opening session with a panel that reiterated the resilience of in-person retail. Meng xing Zhang of BNP Paribas Real Estate suggested understanding the pandemic as a “stress test” for the retail sector and pointed to continued resilient performance from retail sectors such as home goods, DIY (home improvement) discount shops, and outlets. This session was followed by a keynote from Paco Underhill, world-renowned speaker, founder of Envirosell, and author, who took to the stage to discuss how retailers can appeal to their most productive markets, such as young money, young people, and women. This session offered insights on the importance of educating consumers to better understand retailers’ value propositions—a recurring theme throughout the week.
The crucial and growing role of leisure in the retail sector was also an important theme. The opening session dedicated to new trends in leisure showed how the leisure and entertainment sector can create positive impacts for in-person retail. Attractive to younger generations, leisure can help to bring physical commerce back to consumers who strayed from it during COVID. For leisure and commerce to be mutually beneficial for each other, it is necessary to define a clear strategy, taking into account the objectives of the project, as well as the competition and the site itself.
In her speech, Marie Marks underlined the importance of “Choosing the right brand license, with the right format in the right place, without chasing after the latest innovation” whilst also highlighting the emotional attachment that many consumers and visitors have with certain companies’ IP (intellectual property). Paramount believes that theme parks have great potential, and support developers because “taking a brand and making it perform in physical life” requires real know-how. Paramount is thus continuing its international expansion in Asia, with the opening of the Bali park in 2026.
Key lessons from the F&B (food and beverage) leaders, such as Vincent Mourre of Whitespace Partners, pointed to the increased demand from investors and consumers for the resilient and agile QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) segment—such as fast casual, coffee, and bakery offerings. In a market landscape where access to financing is increasingly strained, Whitespace has noted companies’ interest in seeking alternative sources of financing or considering IPOs.
In line with MAPIC 2022’s focus on sustainability, the Green means go: Accelerating environmental transition for retail destinations panel also offered a refreshingly frank and pragmatic approach to how retail can reduce its environmental impact.
Antoine Frey, CEO of Frey, and Elisabeth Laville, Founder of Utopies reflected on the retail sector’s top priorities. Elisabeth Laville stated that “we need to address the biggest problems; construction and consumption.” Antoine Frey explained that Frey aims to reduce its carbon footprint by using cross-laminated timber instead of steel in the construction of some buildings, while Elisabeth made the case for the importance of physical retail for—and by—the local. Elisabeth concluded the session with the reflection that “Physical places must look to creating social interactions and bonds with local communities”. This is what physical retail needs to do—and what e-commerce can never do.”
Each year, MAPIC hosts some of the retail real estate industry’s largest leasing announcements—and 2022 was no different. Landmark Saudi project Diriyah Square announced that the world’s largest Time Out Market; Time Out Market Riyadh, will open its doors in 2025. The indoor and outdoor dining options will include approximately 1,650 seats, 23 kitchens, five beverage serveries, and multiple stages, event, and exhibition spaces. Other projects from the Middle East and Asia also on-site with exciting plans for the future included The Avenues and Tashkent City Mall respectively.
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