Retail Real Estate Experts talk about their life and career on Bayfield Training Blog.
Editor, Retail Property Analyst
SEUNG JUN OH: You have studied Mechanical Engineering in university, however you have moved to Retail in 1999. What triggered your interest in retail?
MARK: Osmosis. I never practiced as an engineer, much to the relief of both myself and the industry. Instead I worked on construction-related titles after graduating, gradually moving into the more architectural side, and then in 1999 I was asked by Retail Week to join them to relaunch their long-established store design magazine as Retail Interiors.
SEUNG JUN OH: Seeing that you have written a number of articles on different retail trends, what are some interesting trends nowadays? Are there any particular changes that retailers should keep an eye on in the near future?
MARK: I think the big trends have been playing out for a while – F&B, online, leisure, entertainment, commoditisation, delivery, service, ongoing austerity, the switch in spend from stuff to experiences and so on. Those issues are not really changing but they are intensifying. My biggest concern remains that too many retailers and landlords are still not aware of the depth of change coming. It’s happening already and it’s fundamental. When it comes to many smaller towns, I don’t think we are talking about asset management, we’re talking about social repurposing.
SEUNG JUN OH:Beside your work as a journalist, you have organised and spoke at several events around the world. Is there an event that you found the most interesting and would recommend if something similar comes up? Why?
MARK: Am I allowed to recommend my own events? Retail Property Analyst looks at future trends and we get some great speakers along, who are given a brief to be really thought-provoking, and we pack a lot into a day. For me the two biggest events of the year are World Retail Congress, where you get a very senior set of attendees, and MAPIC – where the European and international retail real estate industry gets together in Cannes. I have still to get to ICSC Las Vegas, but it’s supposed to be quite mind-blowing!
SEUNG JUN OH: You have recently organised a conference on the Future of Shopping Centres. How do you decide on the topic of these events? Do you have any other conferences in the future that you are excited about?
Mark: To me the most important thing is to pick on relevant topics and to bring something fresh to the table. I attend an awful lot of events and so I choose people who interest me, on the basis that few people can have seen more speakers and subjects than me in a year! The Future of Shopping Centres allows us to explore all the big issues, while iGeneration – which is on 30 November – specifically looks at the convergence of digital and physical.
What’s interesting is that although we’ve run this for six years, the issues change so much that the topics are almost completely different each time. It’s great to bring the technology and real estate industries together as well, because it’s that diverse dynamic which will be needed to deliver future shopping spaces. It also means we have people in ties talking with people not wearing socks. It’s the future!
SEUNG JUN OH: As an expert in property analysis, are there other sectors of real estate besides retail that you are keeping your eyes on?
MARK: I would say that all the sectors are becoming increasingly entwined. The way we live – from smarter homes to less home ownership – is having a big impact on what people want to buy and how they purchase. The way we work is doing the same, especially as younger people are increasingly choosing workspaces they enjoy and stimulate them, rather than chasing traditional career paths.
Then there is logistics, which is being transformed by omni-channel retail. And you only have to look at Airbnb to see how a disruptor can come into the hotel market and revolutionise the way people book accommodation. Healthcare and older living options are going to be huge drivers too. At the heart of it is convergence and you see it everywhere, so to answer your question, I do look at all the other sectors but always through a retail lens. You name a trend and I’ll reduce it to the impact of how people will buy t-shirts in the future. I think that might be the definition of retail nerd.