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Retail and Distribution Management
Edward McFadyen,
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To cite this document:
Edward McFadyen, (1979) "THE SHOPPING CENTRE MOVES DOWNTOWN", Retail and Distribution Management, Vol. 7
Issue: 3, pp.18-20,
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shopping centres
Downloaded by Griffith University At 23:25 25 October 2017 (PT)
In America, White House policy
on the preferability of siting
shopping centres downtown rather
than in suburban locations has
recently been expressed. It
coincides with our own policy in
the UK of urban development, and
indeed a move across Europe
generally to come in from the
suburbs to the town centres.
This was one of the main themes
debated at the annual conference
of the International Council of
Shopping Centres in Paris in
THERE IS no longer any doubt
that the trend for large-scale retail
units to move back into the town
centres from the suburbs and outof-town has become firmly
established and will be one of the
major characteristics of shopping
centres, superstores and
hypermarkets in the 1980s. Neither
will this be confined to major
western European countries; it is
also a trend that has become very
apparent in America.
These views are being expressed
through the forum of the
International Council of Shopping
Centers, most notably in America
and Paris. In new Orleans in
January, Bruce Kirschenbaum, an
aide of President Carter, addressed
an ICSC University of Shopping
Centers session on downtown
development. His view was
unequivocal as he restated White
House policy:
"If a suburban mall and a
downtown mall have been
proposed, and the market can
sustain only one, we will target our
Edward McFadyen
shopping centres
Downloaded by Griffith University At 23:25 25 October 2017 (PT)
Aspects of shopping centres: far
left, Parly 2 (Paris); left. City 2
(Brussels); below. La Tour
Montparnasse (Paris).
resources downtown. The
Administration will not use funds
to aid development that would be
counter-productive to urban
It appears that in some cases
where a suburban mall has been
proposed, even where no
downtown mall is in existence,
cities are asking for economic
impact reviews before Federal
agencies commit funds for highway
improvements or similar approval
for construction for centres.
Understandably, Kirschenbaum's
comments have provoked
retaliatory comments from
shopping centre industry officials.
ICSC vice-president Albert
Sussman replied: "President Carter
has an urban policy, but no
suburban policy, and this may
create serious problems for some
developers and retailers."
Sussmann went on to say that
the ICSC was not quarrelling with
the President's urban policy — in
fact they supported it, especially
the Urban Development Action
Grants programme and other
funding programmes initiated
under the Carter Administration.
'Our concern," he added, "is over
what seems to be an anti-suburban
tendency on the part of isolated
but influential Washington
officials and many state and local
government authorities. We're
behind what the Federal
Government is doing to help cities,
but we don't want the suburbs to
be undermined in the process."
ICSC president Edwin N.
Homer was equally disturbed, and
commented that the
Administration policy could have
onerous effects on the shopping
center industry. "Developers," he
said, "aren't against downtown.
They're positive on any good
location. But if the government
decides to make funding decisions
for or against a specific project
based on economic or other
considerations, real or perceived,
this could do serious damage to
shopping center developments."
At the 4th Annual Conference
of the ICSC, held in Paris in
March, the trend towards urban
location featured large in the
discussions. Mark Norton, of the
Larry Smith consulting
organisation, saw this as one of
the distinguishing features of
shopping centers of the 1980s. He
made some interesting comparisons
between the old-style Parly 2, in
the Paris suburbs, and the new
City 2, recently opened in Brussels.
Paul Yvanoff, Director-General
of GB-Inno-BM, has described
City 2 as "effectively a regional
commercial centre of large
dimensions, but nonetheless
situated in the heart of Brussels on
a site reputed for the last 150 years
for its commercial activity."
City 2 takes up 22,000 sq metres
on three levels, has climatised
malls, and gives direct access to
Bon Marche, to Inno and to the
Metro. It is promoted by a
company called Citymo, made up
mostly of Belgian interests.
Principal units involved are GBInno-BM, the French Société de
Centres Commerciaux, and the
group La Henin.
Mark Norton made the contrast
between the straight mall of Parly
2 and the curved mall of City 2;
the artificial light of Parly and the
natural light of City; the two levels
of the French centre and the three
of the Belgian centre.
The move to town centres was
also pinpointed by Francois
Lemarchand, of Pier Import,
whose view was that "shopping
centres of 15-30,000 sq metres in
the centre of an urban network
will succeed, but the huge concrete
shoeboxes built in the middle of
green fields are finished."
Francois Lemarchand had
another comment to make about
retailing; he saw it in terms of
"hard" and "soft" retailing —
hard retailing being very much
discount-orientated, aggressive,
and basic, while soft retailing
carried connotations of quality and
leisurely shopping. His view was
that the 1970s saw the emergence
of the hard retailers whose purpose
was to provide basic needs — the
hypermarkets and the discount
stores — while the 1980s will see
more leisurely shopping with
successful shopping centres
designed for the pleasure of the
M.Lemarchand saw the future as
lying with the retailer who sells
"goods loaded with emotional
trappings — ideas rather than
goods". Success will come to the
retailer who specialises. Areas of
expansion will lie in leisure goods,
sporting, and DIY, but the
hypermarket will not expand.
Ronald Gammie, of Donaldson
& Sons, thought that the rate of
growth for the hypermarket would
be slow, at least as far as the UK
was concerned. He also thought it
unlikely that any major regional
shopping centres would be put up
in the UK over the next five years.
"Big schemes are unlikely to be
seen again," he said, "and new
shopping schemes in towns will be
based on the conservation
Pyramids and temples
Jean Louis Solal, of the prestigious
Societe Centres Commerciaux, in a
memorable lunchtime speech,
reviewed the immediate French
past and forecast future trends on
the retail scene. "An observer of
the French retail scene over the last
ten years might think that the
normal activity of the century had
been telescoped and encapsulated
into the last decade, such has been
the pace of development and
change," he said. "Enclosed
shopping centres have become
commonplace. They float today on
the French landscape like pyramids
or temples of the boom years we
have known. There has been an
emergence of the hypermarket, a
truly French phenomenon. Chain
stores have exploded, and
independents have become chains.
Retailers have become more
But he qualified this sentiment
by commenting that "it would be
foolish and presumptous to revel
in bygone glories. We were the
actors in a scene which we did not
stage . . . We started development
in a superboom period." This was
the time when the population
explosion occurred, when there
Downloaded by Griffith University At 23:25 25 October 2017 (PT)
shopping centres
was a marked rise in family growth
which couldn't be contained within
the city limits. It was also a time
when the economy was prosperous
and when there was permanent
growth at the rate of 6-8% a year.
"As we see," continued Jean
Louis Solal, "Shopping centre
development has come a long way
in France in the last ten years. It
has evolved into a major industry
with 317 centres of a size over
50,000 sq ft of gross leasable space.
This equals a total of 7m. sq ft,
and represents today 12.6% of all
consumer spending, employing
150,000. Department stores have
3% of all consumer spending while
hypermarkets have 10%."
M. Solal then outlined the
problems which currently face the
shopping centre industry. The first
of these he regarded as hostile
legislation. '' Government
authorities are acting to defend the
downtown or 'High Streets'
against the threat of central urban
decay," he said. After referring to
the Loi Royer, M. Solal added:
"We are deeply concerned over
government interference in
shopping centre development.
Most of the time when the project
is authorised, we have to face the
ever growing demands of city
planners which are economically
unacceptable. They would like us
to design more complex, less
functional and more expensive
The second major problem he
defined as "the gap which exists
between the soaring and staggering
costs of a new project and the
ability of the merchants to pay
rent." M. Solal takes the view that
rents have not appreciated between
1968 and today as much as the
cost of construction has. "Rent
levels," he says, "are not high
enough to make the economic
return on investment as profitable
as it used to be and it forces us to
invest more equity."
The third problem he identified
was the "total stop of department
store expansion in shopping
centres". Department stores'
performance in centres has not
been good; few are breaking even
and most have incurred losses.
These deparment stores have found
it difficult to adjust themselves to
new consumers in new trade areas
which they didn't know. It has
also been difficult for them to face
the stiff competition in the malls
from the chains of speciality
apparel stores, faster in reordering
and sometimes better in service.
But Jean Louis Solal was
optimistic about the future of
shopping centres in France. He
gave four reasons: first, in 1958
there were 4 million cars in France;
today there are 21 million.
Secondly, there is a dichotomy in
retail units between the discount
checkout type of business and the
type which emphasises service,
fashion and prestige. Shopping
centres, in his opinion, are the best
synthesis of the two sides of
retailing. Thirdly, shopping in a
mall saves time which can be used
for leisure. And finally, in spite of
the recession, France has a very
brisk retail market with consumer
spending growing every year.
Audio-visual shopping
Another view expressed at the
conference — by James O. York
of R.H. Macy Properties Inc. —
was that "we are leaving the
automobile age and entering the
electronic age as the primary
influence on our life style and
conditions." There is some feeling
today that we are poised for a
revolution based upon electronic
inventory and distribution control,
electronic funds transfer, and upon
the mass ownership of television
sets and the pace of development
in home electronics and
Carrying this development one
stage further, it is possible to
visualise the use of video-shopping
— in which the customer orders
her requirements from her home
with the aid of a TV screen. The
impact of this on the retail
structure generally and on
shopping centres in particular
could obviously be considerable; it
was apparent that some of the
American shopping centre
developers at the conference were
to some degree concerned at the
However, James York thought
there were certain factors which
would inhibit the development, in
spite of the availability of the
technology. One factor was the
very real wish of consumers to see
how merchandise looks, feels, or
fits — the exact colour shading or
texture, and these are things you
can't get from a home TV screen.
He was supported in this view by
Dean Beck of Carter Hawley Hale,
who commented — "We continue
to be bullish about the consumer
coming to the store, although we
see her using the TV screen in the
home to order some sorts of
A more compelling factor which
would inhibit the spread of audiovisual shopping, according to
James York, was the problem of
distribution. No matter what
method of selection was adopted,
the merchandise still had to be
delivered to the customer's home.
"For every load of merchandise
going to the customer's home," he
said, "a trip must be made either
by a truck or by the customer's
automobile. Those of you who
have recently purchased large
trucks or who pay their drivers and
fuel bills will recognise that the
cost of a home delivery — even
with very efficient routeing — is
quite costly.
"By comparison," he continued,
"the typical shopping centre visitor
owns an automobile for other
reasons that just shopping, so the
use of the car for a shopping trip
becomes a marginal cost which is
separate from the cost of the
merchandise and rather easily
afforded since it is available
anyway. At the same time, the
shopper will usually be driving that
car and thus avoid the labour cost
involved in home delivery."
Thus with video shopping, the
shopping centre developer is facing
the total cost of delivery versus
facing only the marginal cost of
the consumer's own automobile
and labour with the shopping
centre form of distribution.
"Until the technology of
warehousing, break-bulk, and
secure delivery packaging becomes
very much more cost effective, it
appears that the cost advantage of
the do-it-yourself delivery system
will continue to make the shopping
centre a viable form of
distribution," concluded James
York •
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