What are the core companies in ECE

The Dr. Lademann & Partner Gesellschaft für Unternehmens- und Kommunalberatung mbH celebrated its 30th company anniversary with a conference at the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski in Hamburg. 14 speakers built a bridge from the past to the future. Because the company's history is linked to the most dynamic phases of retail development in the past 3 decades: concentration and branching, the decline of department stores, the boom in inner-city shopping centers - and now digitization, which is firmly rooted in people's everyday lives.

Many of the 80 participants were long-term customers and companions, the reason why the conference in the traditional hotel on the Outer Alster took place in a friendly, family atmosphere. "Look into the past and I'll predict the future for you," the company founder quoted Prof. Rainer P. Lademann the Chinese philosopher Confucius. And so struck Wolf-Dietrich Loose, former board member of Metro AG and today with Premium Equity Partners, a chapter from the past, when he gave an entertaining and exciting report on how from Metro Cash & Carry and the small Saarland consumer cooperative Asko German Department Store AG became one of the largest trading companies in the world through countless acquisitions and mergers in the late 1980s / early 1990s.

The culmination was the merger of the core companies Asko, Metro Cash & Carry and Kaufhof in 1996 to form Metro AG. "Was it all worth it?" Loose asked looking back. His summary: some purchases have failed, some investments have been given up again and real integration often only succeeds after many years. "The homogeneous way of internal expansion is the slower one, but the safer and more manageable one".

Provided an example of successful internal company growth Heino Schmidt, managing Director the Edeka-Miha Immobilien-Service GmbH. "Edeka relies on regional market penetration through expansive and future-oriented location decisions, regional products and qualified full supply close to the home with a high level of service," is how he described the recipe for success.

Dr. Lademann & Partner has been with us for many years. The consulting firm is busy today with the answers that brick-and-mortar retail must find to eCommerce, which concepts are promising against online retail and which common paths are possible and necessary. Opened as a proven expert on these questions Alexander Otto, CEO the ECE Projektmanagement GmbH & Co. KG, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, the series of lectures: "Shopping centers can only counteract online trade by offering something that the internet can never do, an experience and a feel-good atmosphere". The development is progressing ever faster: "Online is upgrading, it is becoming more convenient, better and more intelligent," says Otto.

The biggest mistake is therefore not to continue investing. “You always have to stay tuned to keep a center alive and swim with it on many waves, whether it's the selfie photo box, digital children's play areas, spectacular events, an ever stronger service orientation. In addition, there is the right mix of tenants, the architecture, the light, the ambience - all of this has to change constantly and you have to keep your finger on the pulse, ”said the ECE boss.

"Architecture and tenants get on in years after 10 to 15 years", confirmed Jörg Ways, Head of Strategic Development M&A in the MEC Metro-ECE center management, who summed up the key success factor for a successful center refurbishment: Know and understand your customers and react to their needs.

All conference participants agreed that gastronomy is becoming more and more important. While around 5% of the space used to be used by the catering trade, today it is 10% and more. "Some believe that this will expand up to 20%," said Otto. Many centers rely on large food courts with fast-service restaurants and a shared seating area, but there is also increasing demand for more upscale catering concepts that are open beyond the normal business hours of the center. To do this, they must have separate access.

In order to stay on the ball, ECE is testing new services and technologies in its Future Labs. "One example is the love-to-shop app, which combines a lot of offers and information and offers additional added value via a bonus system," reports the ECE boss. "We are initially using the beacons to analyze customer flows on a test basis. Small receivers distributed in the mall are notified via Bluetooth when smartphones 'come by'. With the beacons, push notifications are also possible for customers in the future, so that they can, for example, be informed of events or offers when entering the center. Facebook pages, 3D wayfinding systems and digital playgrounds have also established themselves. Contactless parking is sure to become standard at some point ”.

Emphasized how important it is to create a seamless shopping experience for the customer across the various sales channels Uwe Seidel, gmanaging partner by Dr. Lademann & Partner. Retail has changed more in the past 15 years than ever before and has to think about how to get customers off the couch and iPad back into the center. With the food retail trade, "the last castle has fallen" with the entry of Amazon into this market.

"The challenge is better interlinking the channels, there are few alternatives to multichannel," says Seidel. The obstacles are not in the market, but in the companies themselves. Where is the problem with the topic of multichannel? “Lack of skills and scarce resources.” The majority of companies have no instrument for clearly identifying customers.

For Marc-Philip Kaufmann, managing Director of the sporting goods supplier Decathlon multichannel is not a problem. “We started early, our customers love click & collect,” he said. The rapidly growing company generates half of its sales in-store, the other half online. "For us, it is the combination of classic stores, connect stores, small shops with a highly specialized range, and internet stores, where customers can discover the entire range of products."

The Berlin shoe manufacturer went a different way Shoepassion.com, where the focus was on founding your own online shoe brand from the start. “We started out as an online pure player and actually, contrary to our convictions, we opened stationary stores. It was only when customers kept showing up in our office that we decided to merge online and offline, ”says Tim Keding, Founder and CEO from Shoepassion.com. "Multichannel is a huge opportunity for us, both channels benefit from each other."

But while online retail is hardly restricted, stationary retail suffers from massive regulations, such as the current building and planning law, such as Prof. Christoph Moench, Partner Gleiss Lutz Berlin, showed. The problem of being able to adapt adequately to the market as a result of the rigid planning law and the hostility to innovation often led to death in installments for some retailers.

Finally put Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, Managing director of Hafen City GmbH Hamburg, the new Hafen City district. With 157 hectares, it is the largest urban development project in Europe. It expands the city center on former port areas by 40%. These include many spectacular buildings such as the Elbphilharmonie, which made those in charge sweat for a long time. This also applies to the "late bloomer" Überseequartier in the south of HafenCity, which will not be ready until 2021 after a bumpy start, 11 years later than planned. A new investor had to be found for the “commercial urban machine of the new district” (Bruns-Berentelg).

Well invested Unibail-Rodamco 970 million euros in a shopping center that “is not supposed to be a classic and, above all, not a standardized shopping center, but an open urban space where all tourist features can be used,” said the head of HafenCity. Unibail Rodamco will use all its knowledge and skills to ensure success, because so far HafenCity has been rather a flop as a trade and gastronomy location. 80,500 square meters of space with up to 190 shops are planned, far more than originally planned. The center has to be big enough to reach the critical mass, says Bruns-Berentelg. The support association for the inner city project fears a 15% drop in sales due to competition.

For Gerd Wilhelmus, Managing director at Unibail Rodamco, the project must therefore “be a farewell to standard vending machines”. The management must consistently rely on permanent innovation, the place must offer an additional immaterial benefit and link several areas of life in order to become a real third place. This includes a very special anchor and 8,000 to 10,000 square meters of catering space.