The international retail real estate community from 80 countries gathered in Cannes last month for the 24th edition of MAPIC, with attention focused on the convergence of physical and digital retail and how retailers and property owners are deploying new services to enhance the customer experience.

The buzz word at MAPIC 2018 was customer “experience” as 8,500 delegates including over 2,000 retailers came together on the Cote d’Azur. Inside the exhibition hall and throughout the conference programme, delegates shared the view that the entire retail real estate industry must embrace change in order to transform traditional shopping malls and stores into a multiexperience urban destination combining leisure, sport, food and beverage, new technology, healthcare and more.


With ‘Physical in the Age of Digital’ the central theme of MAPIC 2018, opening keynote speaker and MAPIC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Christophe Cuvillier, Group Chief Executive Officer of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, made the case for bricks and mortar stores and the opportunities of omni-channel retailing.

In a tour de force conversation with veteran retail real estate expert Chris Igwe, Christophe Cuvillier insisted that opening physical stores had a direct and positive impact on online traffic and sales. Addressing a packed MAPIC auditorium he noted: “Every one of us is a click-and-mortar customer. The future is connected retailing. People want comfort, experience and services. Physical stores drive internet sales.


On the eve of MAPIC, the first edition of the Leisure Summit took place on Tuesday 13 November, on the eve of MAPIC’s opening, between 14.30 and 18.30 and was sold out, with 225 delegates taking part in the first edition of the ultimate event dedicated to Leisure in retail real estate. RLI was again on-site throughout the range of MAPIC events this year, and RLI Publisher Jayne Rafter hosted a panel session during the Leisure Summit entitled ‘How to choose the best entertainment solutions for your shopping malls?’ This panel session discussed the topic: What should the mall of tomorrow be? And how does entertainment fit within that strategy? The panel session also featured the esteemed speakers Riad Makdessi, CEO of Trimoo, Philip Lunn, Chairman of AXIOM, Reinhart Viane, Business Development Director at KCC, Vasily Ryzhonkov, Founder & CEO of Arena Space and Gaston Gaitan, Founder of The Leisure Way. During MAPIC, RLI’s very own event RLI Connect was also the Official Media Partner for the MAPIC Global Retail Partner Summit, which took place on Wednesday 14 November between 16:30 and 18:30 in the Verrière Grand Auditorium.


The day before MAPIC officially began also saw the second edition of the sold-out International Outlet Summit which hosted over 300 delegates. What was once considered as a niche industry built around discounting, the outlet business is increasingly growing in importance. Several major markets have enormous potential for outlet growth. Haoran Wu, Research Analyst at TH Real Estate predicted double digit growth in China through 2030, while Fashion House Group Managing Director Brendon O’Reilly noted that Russia currently has just five outlet centres. In a sign of how all actors in the retail business need to rethink strategies, Davide Lardera, CEO of Scalo Milano Outlet & More urged landlords to work closer with outlet retailers, commenting: “You can no longer just be a landlord and take the rent… if you do, you are dead,” he predicted.


What was once seen as an inevitable struggle for survival between digital and physical retailing appears to have progressed to a new dynamic where the two sides can not only live together but support each other. According to Melina Cordero, Head of Global Retail Research at CBRE, customers, particularly millennials, are increasingly shopping across channels. “We like to browse online, try in a store and buy on our device…consumers still look to the store for knowledge and expertise,” she commented.

For the first time at MAPIC, e-commerce heavyweights including Amazon, Vente-Privée Entertainment, MADE. com and Zalando took to the MAPIC stage to discuss the convergence between physical and digital commerce. The challenge for today’s offline retailers is to integrate digital technology that customers are looking for. Nicolas Standaert, Founder and CEO of Nearbuy Group, warned physical stores: “The focus is still too much on the strategies and tactics of selling, rather than on the customers and their experiences.” One of the strategic priorities of the e-commerce giants is delivery, particularly the final mile. For example in France, Amazon is forging ahead with the development of its logistics network and collection ‘lockers’ around the country. “Clearly retail is challenged in the current disruptive climate but what was noticeable this week was that people were talking about solutions and potential for development,” concluded MAPIC’s Nathalie Depetro. “Online and offline will co-exist, new concepts in food and beverage, leisure, sport, health and entertainment will become increasingly important in the overall shopping experience and increasingly important as part of the MAPIC community.”

In 2019, MAPIC Italy and MAPIC FOOD returns to the MiCo Milano Congressi on 8-9 May, while MAPIC returns for its 25th Anniversary on the 13-15 November 2019