The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is urging the EU to strike a balance between retailers’ freedom of establishment (right of retailers to cross borders and do business throughout the EU) and national authorities’ urban planning objectives.
During a joint discussion with retailers and EU officials in Brussels this week, ICSC highlighted that laws for commercial establishment in Europe should always take the needs of customers, citizens and businesses into account. Addressing a 70-strong audience, Peter Wilhelm, newly appointed chair of the ICSC’s European Public Affairs Committee, said: “Providing a level playing field between established retailers, small, large, on the high street or in the city’s periphery is key in allowing the retail sector to play its role of contributing to jobs and growth in the EU”. The shopping centre industry employs about 5.1 million retail workers across Europe.
Amongst other things, ICSC is advocating a fairer and more efficient permitting process. As it stands, European retailers must acquire both building and commercial permits. “You could end up investing several million and spending five years on your building permit and at the very end have your commercial permit refused.” Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm stated that shopping centres are a vital platform for retail growth and for SMEs and newcomers. They provide an opportunity for smaller retailers to access new markets. He said. “Shopping centres provide a balanced retail offer to consumers and are part of the fabric of a community, generating jobs and a robust supply chain. Supporting new retail concepts is part of that community engagement.”
He added: “The establishment of retailers should not be dependent on the economic needs of the location, but planning permissions should be granted or rejected on the basis of objective criteria and the dialogue between developers and authorities should be clear and transparent.”