We are all aware of the shifts in retail and the property industry over the last few years. The landscape we work in has changed and we must adapt to the development in trends. The Revo conference in Manchester ‘means engaging with, and understanding, other parts of the real estate, infrastructure, retail and Placemaking sector is critical as we move towards more dynamic, mixed-use destinations.’  

The two day conference started with an opening party at the Mayfield Depot, a venue just behind Piccadilly Station. It was a great space and there was a selection of drinks and food, this was the perfect opportunity to catch up with others in an informal setting before the business started the next day.

Side note: As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Revo Manchester started with the most incredible breakfast at Ezra & Gill, something that just couldn’t be missed off this blog post…

This year’s Revo took place in Central Convention Complex in Manchester, the exhibition hall is a great space that was full of exhibition stands and the industry were primed for a day of meetings and talks. The first sessions was ‘Fake News! Should we believe everything we read about the UK economy?’ which was presented by Steph McGovern. Steph talked through all the recent changes in the UK including the main topic of Brexit on everyone’s mind. She concluded that ‘the UK economy is largely driven by consumer spending’ which continued the discussion onto a panel of speakers including Kim Politzer (Fidelity International) Darren Richards (British Land) and Pat Ritchie (Newcastle City Council).

Darren Richards, deputy head of retail at British Land talked about the structural shift in retail globally and how we are moving into a ‘new retail era’. He mentioned that ‘retailers need to adapt to the change’ and progress with the movement to keep up with the trends. Customers need another reason to go shopping instead of online shopping, and the main aim of Placemaking is to come together in once space and experience something different. ‘There is a national problem with the high street, and high streets have become so fragmented.

For example Regents Street has a strong brand identity and proposition and is owned by one landlord. However this is in close proximity to Oxford Street, which is a completely different atmosphere and run by several different managing agents and developers. As customers, we crave that ‘senses of space’ which makes our shopping and F&B experience so important.  Kim Politzer talks about Sunderland being ‘a great example of a cultural hub, full of arts, theatre groups and community groups – it’s transforming the city and retail offer is moving with this and works for everyone’.

It was great to see so many clients at Revo, including a great catch up with Hammerson to discuss the exciting new developments and future plans & ambitions for Westquay, Southampton. Westquay South have developed an 3 -5 year Placemaking Strategy to enlivenment The Esplanade to support the surrounding F&B which includes Festival of Light and 14 days of Wimbledon screening. In Hammerson’s half year report for 2018, two stand out points for us were, ‘devoting more resource to meet increased consumer demand for experience enhancing events and a sophisticated digital offer’

Hammerson 2018 half-year report

‘We will devote more resource to meet increased consumer demand for experience enhancing events and a sophisticated digital offer to amplify the consumer experience at our winning destinations.’ Hammerson half year results. 

It was also great to see our work showcased on Hammerson stand and on the front of their brochure handing out to all delegates. Images included Festival of Light, the Westquay Maze and Wimbledon.

The next session was on ‘Are shops killing the high street?’ including a panel of David Kosky (Work.Life) Crispin Lilly (Everyman Cinema) Guy Nixon (Native) Ed Templeton (Carousel) and Karen Whelan (Surry Heath Borough Council). The panel discussed different ways to use the High Street other than shops, and the changes to town centres in recent years. Crispin Lilly mentioned the importance of being ‘part of a community’ and how in ‘1984 everyone stated that cinema was dead’ just like the high street but the cinemas changed and developed along with technology. ‘Cinema has expanded as it has been reinvented, it’s all about adding experience’ Crispin added. We believe that these experiences will encourage people to engage’ for example, live events and enlivening a space gives the customer another reason to come back. With every Placemaking event we produce, we have to work with the community and the local audience to develop a concept that works with the immediate environment. Ed Templeton adds that ‘Experiences are a fundamental thing’ and Karen supported with ‘you need to create spaces that people want to use’ and then when developed, they need to be constantly be animated to challenge perception and the way people see and use spaces. We need to continually develop with our spaces and ideas, ensuring that we are always ahead of the trend.

The final talk for me, was THE talk of the day. Howard Saunders (Retail Futurist) brought a different dynamic to the day, touching on current topics and challenges in the industry. Enthusiastic was an understatement to describe Howard’s passion for the industry. He talked about the food revolution, and the changes in customer demands for this ‘sophisticasual’ dining and how street food is what place need. The rise of the independent is challenging the bigger retailers, and this is all down to the customer wanting an experience when they purchase. Customer these days don’t want ‘a’ coffee, they want ‘THE’ coffee, made by an independent. They want to understand how things are made, their history, the impact on the world – they want to be immersed in the environment. Howard said it ‘wasn’t about being a store, it’s about being a venue and an experience’.

The panel continued to talk through the shift of retail globally, and the changes in the F&B market along with the show rooms and different use of space. The panel included Murry Clark (The Big Box Co) Holly Hallam (DesignLSM) Jill Ju (The Collective) and Philip Lunn (Axiom). The questions was asked what will shopping centres be called if there is no shopping as part of the experience. Will they be experience centres or just places? Philip mentioned that spaces need to follow Axiom’s key principles, ‘convenience, experience, excitement and delight.’

It was such a great day, and full of inspiring talks and discussions. A day that deserved to finish with a glass of wine or two! We finished our day and joined Hammerson on their stand for a drink and to reflect on the year and speak about the future of Placemaking.