Embracing the young in 2021
2020 is edging towards a close. At the end of what has surely been one of the most disruptive years for real estate on record, it seems fitting that we use these final couple of working weeks to envisage the positive change we want to see for the sector in the year ahead.
Of course, we are living in an age where plans and resolutions are hindered somewhat by uncertainty – but that mustn’t stop real estate businesses striving to establish stronger foundations to inform decision making in 2021, when we hope the market will return to stable growth. Real estate is a very competitive industry at its core, but the consensus is that future prosperity relies on embracing the notion of community – namely understanding and responding to the needs of everyone within your community – throughout the project lifecycle.
Louise Houston, development manager for strategic land at Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, raised an interesting point in EG this week; tomorrow’s community are the young people of today. In recent times, we’ve seen younger people engage with social and national issues, from climate change to national referendums, with more fervour than most but, as it stands, their voices are not being heard by the current planning system. Some 89% of 16 to 18-year-olds who responded to a recent survey by Grosvenor said they have never been asked about the future of their neighbourhood – which, most would agree, is quite astonishing.
So, what steps can real estate businesses take in 2021 to engage younger generations in the planning process and ensure we are creating truly mixed communities, where the built environment is reflective of the wants and needs of everyone?
Urban Land Institute suggests that real estate developers and planners need to meet young people where they feel comfortable, such as in school and online. Its Urban Plan UK initiative helps young people to gain insight into the inner workings of real estate and the role it plays in reviving and regenerating urban areas through specialist workshops.
In terms of online, the prevalence of virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom has in 2020 become central to the way we do business – and should also be embraced as a key tool for engaging younger audiences in real estate development moving forward. Grosvenor is already doing this, holding Zoom sessions to gather feedback about changes to its London estate, while the UK government has also highlighted the need for digital tools to bridge the gap between young people and real estate in its latest planning reforms white paper.
These kinds of positive changes, which embrace the power of new platforms, bring urban studies in education to life, and actively engage with young people one-on-one to raise their involvement and aspirations, are vital if we are to revitalise real estate planning and consultation. At the moment, they are few and far between. However, like most, we at Innesco are looking forward to putting 2020 behind us as we head into 2021 with a fresh perspective. Who better than the younger generation, with their keen awareness of the latest innovations, technologies and lifestyles, to help shape our perspective, and ensure we create more successful places for the future?
Esther Akinnuwa, Digital Community Manager, InnescoMore
Black women in real estate
You can’t be what you can’t see! It is a simple and powerful message. Why? Because it is true; there are only five ethnic minority and seven female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies since 2017. So if we are not seeing enough women, let alone black women, in leadership positions within real estate, how would other black women know that it is an industry for them where they can aspire and climb the career ladder. As a black woman my background and experience is not reflected within Real Estate at every level. I can’t point to anybody at any level and say that someone who looks like me is truly represented. This is partly because I am a woman but mostly because I am black. Yet, our industry does impact all types of people.
I was inspired to enter the industry by a novel ‘As Stars Shine Down’ by Sidney Sheldon where the protagonist, Lara Cameron, is an Architect turned Property Developer, who dominates a traditionally male industry. I read this book at 11 years old and was inspired by the strength and determination of Lara, and understood what I wanted to achieve in my own career. I studied architecture with dedication, pursued my career with ambition and when I got to a certain level in my career and looked up, I realised that I was not seeing many people like me. It was from this moment that Black Women in Real Estate (BWRE) was born.
I started BWRE because of the desire to meet other black women in the industry as I struggled to find women like me in my immediate network. As an underrepresented group, it is not common for black women to cross paths in their daily work life, BWRE creates the opportunity for them to create a supportive network across the industry. Since November 2019 BWRE has cultivated a sisterhood through regular virtual calls and meet ups (Covid-19 permitted) every 2 months at various locations, to discuss work but also their personal endeavours. They support members with APC interviews, CV reviews and broader career advice and host personal and professional development workshops.
Real Estate, as an industry, is far reaching and touches the lives of every type of person. The sector has a responsibility to be reflective of the communities that it impacts and ultimately serves. There are many ways in which the sector falls short of this responsibility, but BWRE wants to start by addressing the issue of under representation of diversity by creating spaces for Black Women to Connect, Empower one another and Grow our reach and influence through a combined voice.
Hanna Osundina, a Senior Development Manager for East Wick and Sweetwater LtdMore
Why MAPIC reminds us all to go #Phygital
Normally right about now, I would have been climbing aboard the evening BA flight in Nice, shattered, homeward bound to London.
Every November for the last 23 years I’ve been in Cannes for MAPIC, and it’s never disappointed. OK, last year’s torrential storm that cut the electricity in the middle of my Innovation Session wasn’t a highlight, that was a freak of nature – but it’s been a real inspiration for the global retail and leisure industry now for over a quarter of a century. This year, no evening flight, instead I attended the digital conference from my desk at home with a cup of earl grey instead of the rosé.
Will we ever see the likes of a physical MAPIC – or indeed MIPIM or EXPO Real – again?
These visceral opportunities to promote, exhibit, market, network, speak, bond – can we really do this all in an online forum? You have to admire the ingenuity of the events sector as it scrabbled to take stock and make opportunity from adversity. Many event companies have flourished offering online alternatives to real-life events – and we’ve already “attended” many glitzy awards and conferences that have not disappointed! Augmented and virtual reality platforms have played huge roles to ‘transport’ people to venues and events – just in the way they have done immersing stake-holders in new development projects with Oculus or HoloLens type technology.
The two days of MAPIC Digital deftly brought together over 2,300 senior international decision-makers from the commercial real-estate, retail and leisure sectors. On the conference side, the itinerary of 25 live sessions gave the floor to 114 speakers (many were Innesco’s clients) and brought together between 150 and 460 listeners per session and used the digital conference service to join the debate from home too. An (all new) networking platform proved a great success too, with over 1,250 virtual meetings organised directly among professionals – proving the vibrancy of the sector and the suitability of an online forum,
Whilst digital platforms and tech has reminded us just how easy it is to operate businesses remotely from home, we also know that the uncertainty and nervousness surrounding business travel has truly set in – a double whammy when it comes to meetings in real life – now with its natty acronym “IRL”. The global pandemic all but extinguished airline travel in Q2 and Q3 and was down 70% as of the first week of October 2020 vs. the same week in 2019. Rail travel has been equally hit, with colleagues in Manchester and Cardiff reporting near empty carriages into London for recent meetings. We need to communicate clearly to build trust – something the British Government has learned the hard way during the pandemic. 20-20 hindsight will mean something completely different going forward.
The three major learnings from the pandemic have been well documented and debated – they have been the critical importance of Community, Collaboration and Communication.
We are proud to be a communications-focused agency, to drive ‘the three ‘C’s above, and to work within one of the most challenged sectors – commercial real estate and the built environment. And we’ve seen over 60% year on year growth in our digital work. Necessity is the mother of all invention – and we are embracing these changes in everything we do.
Where do you sit on all this?
Don’t say ‘at home’! What I mean is how do you feel about not seeing colleagues, business partners, project teams, clients? What needs to change for you to return to normality? The physical aspects of human interaction are a basic human right (need?)- but if a pandemic intervenes, even with the vaccines emerging now, we must adapt and pivot our business plans towards a more phygital* world if we are to prevail.
At Innesco, we are working with all our clients to build confidence as part of a resilient business plan – ensuring they and their audiences have all the latest information in front of them to inform important business decisions – whether that be investments, acquisitions, disposals, lettings or development. Our work has embraced phygital for many years now – such as delivering a European and Asian app for @Tesco (Malls by Tesco with over 700 assets), film and digital content to launch schemes such as @Westfield’s UK/European projects and Potsdamer Platz in Berlin (@ECE + @Brookfield), leveraging social channels and engagement data, huge pieces of social listening research with @MaybeTech reaching over a million #CRE professionals and members of the public, right up to this summer facilitating three major asset-management workshop sessions online for a top-5 global fund manager with 20+ participants from four different countries. #Covid has only accelerated the shift towards phygital.
What next for marketing?
The growth of phygital and the inexorable march of the hand held device dominates these processes. Data, results and engagement are the yardstick that marketing campaign must be held against. Reaching MAPIC customers was once a captive roadshow audience in Cannes – and I hope to be back. But until then, I urge you to stress-test your marketing and the way you communicate to further embrace digital platforms, shared content, data and engage with the many ways for consumers, investors, stakeholders and occupiers to discover and learn more about your business, project or portfolio. My team is geared up to advise you on the latest strategies and tactics to optimise the value of your business or assets, adding value through communication – in real life, or online!
Let me know your thoughts – do you have concerns? I hope to see many of you IRL very soon.
Dan Innes. MD, Founder, Innesco. @DanInnesMore
A new experience with MAPIC Digital
With Covid-19 making physical gatherings impossible, there are plenty of examples of how digital has brought people together in recent months. Since April alone, we have seen a 2,000% increase in virtual events globally.
The most recent one, MAPIC, the leading global event in the retail industry, was held on the 17-18 November and managed to go 100% digital without altering its usual objective – to give developers, investors, brands and all kinds of suppliers the opportunity to engage, take part in one-to-one business meetings and ultimately accelerate business discussions and fruitful partnerships. Held alongside MAPIC Digital and also 100% online was LeisurUp 2020, the new international B2B event for leisure professionals.
This year’s headline was “Embracing Collaborative Retail: Ready to change the rules?” and the main themes were collaboration, the creation of new business models, sustainability, leisure, data sharing and all the elements that redefine the urban and commercial landscapes, highlighting the trend of moving away from proprietary attitudes and towards sharing and working together for a common goal. The event also covered food service and the role of leisure in enriching and extending the visitor experience in shopping centres and living spaces.
There were some great on-demand sessions, like “Outlet Industry: What’s new?” with Barbara Horatz from TORG Europe, talking about Tbilisi Outlet Village – the first Outlet in Georgia opening in 2022. There were sessions dedicated to speed networking and live sessions, like the “Italy Forum: Never stop, what’s next?”, focusing on the blossoming of the Italian real estate scene despite the pandemic and its consequences on the Italian and global economies.
According to a recent Twitter survey, 93% of people today expect a brand to adapt their communication to the new reality. This applies to events as well, and it is therefore essential to think about how many more people can access a digital event compared to a physical one. This became obvious during this year’s MAPIC, where many more operators were able to join online sessions due to the online format. A physical event involves logistics such as arranging flights, accommodation and transport, which takes a considerable amount of extra time and money, whereas an online event only requires a few simple clicks on your computer.
The line-up of speakers who were present to discuss the future of the retail industry was excellent. They stressed that lifestyles have changed radically in recent years and that we all need to adapt to new urban models and retail development. We are catering to new consumption habits, to a redefinition of the urban and retail landscape, and the MAPIC speakers fully addressed all these topics.
The takeaways from this year’s event have been several: mainly the shared need for a renovated and innovative approach in order to make retail great again in a post pandemic world. Furthermore, a renewed sense of flexibility and a willing to fight the upcoming months with a renewed spirit of cooperation and mutual support.More
Embracing collaborative retail: Looking ahead to MAPIC Digital
The second week of November is always a busy week at Casa Innesco, as it is the week when we as a team get ready for what is arguably one of the most important weeks in the retail property calendar year: #MAPIC. Of course, this year is quite different compared to previous ones; instead of packing our bags, double-checking flight details and making lunch reservations down in Cannes, we have been busy familiarising ourselves with a digital event platform and filling up our calendars with Zoom meetings.
Under the headline Embracing collaborative retail – Ready to change the rules?, MAPIC will offer twelve live sessions (in addition to the many, many sessions already available on-demand on the platform), speed networking sessions and a dedicated leisure programme under the LeisurUp brand – all over two days. The overarching theme of the event is, as one would expect, retail in a post-Covid world.
Like previous years, Innesco is a proud partner of @MAPICWorld itself, helping to drive key discussions and championing the transformed event with media relations and expert articulation.
We also have several other clients involved in different ways. Massimiliano Carello, Head of Strategy and Asset Management at VIA Outlets, participated in one of the pre-recorded sessions already available on the platform – the dedicated outlet panel Outlet Retail: Ready to Change the Rules?. The session, which also included speakers from companies like Neinver and McArthurGlen, discussed current topics such as the unique position of outlets at a time when retailers, as a result of lockdowns, need to offload large amounts of excess stock and whether Covid has accelerated sustainability and digitalisation of the sector.
Another Innesco client, Norwegian developer Oslo S Utvikling, will be a part of the live session Reshaping Urban Landscapes to Be Fit for the Future, which will take place at 3.30pm CET on Wednesday 18 November. OSU’s CEO Synnøve Lyssand Sandberg will partake in a discussion also featuring an eclectic mix of people from companies including Time Out Market and Ingka Centers alongside a Harvard University professor and the Deputy Mayor of Lisbon. The participants will discuss urban development with a particular focus on mixed use and how this will be integrated into the cities of the future – a fitting topic for OSU as it is the master developer behind Oslo’s mixed-use waterfront development Bjørvika. This not-to-be-missed session will be available to watch on this link.
We are also proud to be working together with Georgian Outlets & Resort Group and The Outlet Resource Group (TORG) to launch Tbilisi Outlet Village, an outlet development in Georgia which is set to become the first outlet on the crossroads of Europe and Asia. As part of this monumental launch, Barbara Horatz of TORG presented the project in a session labelled Outlet Industry: What’s New? (available here). Tbilisi Outlet Village is also exhibiting on the virtual exhibition floor, with a dedicated page loaded with brand new content here.
Other interesting sessions we are looking forward to include the keynote session Collaborative Retail: Ready to Change the Rules?, which will highlight the evolution of the retail business model after Covid-19 and fresh approaches to doing business, (Re)Building the Next Retail Generation, which will look at disruption and acceleration of retail in the future and Think Physical Retail, Think Different, which will debate burning questions like how cultural and social changes are reshaping shopping destinations, how the emergence of digitally native brands are reshaping the industry and what the relationship between bricks & mortar and e-commerce will look like in the future.
Whilst we are looking forward to a hopefully not too distant future where we can all meet face-to-face again – and frankly cannot wait to experience the buzz of a physical event down in Cannes again –
we are certain that next week will be a fantastic showcase of what a digital event can be, offering many of the same opportunities to meet, network and learn albeit online. We hope to see you there – and of course, feel free to follow us over at @Inn_Tweets for real-time insights and updates from the event.More
Unconscious Tokenism in the ‘C’ Suite
Guilty or not Guilty? That is the question…
In a recent article, I made the case for Fairness-based Inclusion Solutions Fairness-based Inclusion Solutions as opposed to Guilt-driven Inclusion Initiatives. The difference in these two approaches can appear to be subtle but the difference in their impact is huge.
In an understandable bid to right the wrongs of the past, many professional service organisations (the focus of this article) are bending over backwards to show that they have changed or are changing. Their focus is often on generating evidence of such change: typically, through “inclusion initiatives” that set out to redress the balance of disproportionately under-represented minorities in white collar roles.
Let’s be clear: these efforts come from a good place. But we need to question the extent to which they are examples of “unconscious tokenism” from ‘C’ suites, driven by guilt and a desire to prove that this company ‘cares’, that it is different, in a good way.
What’s the alternative? I would argue that corporations wishing to do good in this space need to be thinking about long-term initiatives that address underlying barriers and that are truly win-win, i.e. rooted in the interest of both the disenfranchised ethnic minorities and the corporate ‘majority’.
Let’s look at a few examples:
We are seeing more examples of recruitment initiatives that seek to signal a corporation’s commitment to increasing the number of ethnic minority hires and / or source a greater diversity of talent.
But we have to ask: how much of an impact do these measures really make on the underlying issues of inequality and unfairness? To make a real difference such initiatives must be underpinned by more radical, yet breathtakingly simple shifts in policy and corporate solutions. For instance: why not adopt a clear policy that requires job advertisements to openly encourage applications from the minority that the corporation has decided it wants to open up to.
By encouragement I don’t refer to the empty, generic ‘we are an equal opportunities employer…’ statement. This clearly hasn’t worked. Rather, why not try something like:
We need a more diverse work force. For this role we are actively encouraging applications from afro-Caribbean candidates as well as from others including [xxxx] who are also under-represented in our organisation.
Such inclusion initiatives are rooted in fairness and have a far-reaching impact on inclusion, welcoming graduates and job seekers from diverse underprivileged backgrounds, many of whom, to date view high profile professional services roles as unwelcoming to people that look, sound or speak like them.
Guilt-driven Statements and Gestures
In the wake of growing public anger around police killings in the United States, many corporations issued statements that expressed their horror at the situation; their solidarity with the oppressed and their commitment to diversity and inclusion. On one level this was encouraging and positive. But there was something performative about much of this. And, even more worrying, much of the corporate response appeared to be steeped in an attitude of “how can we (the ‘guilty perpetrator’) help them (the ‘poor hapless victims)?’.
This underlying sentiment is wrong because it traps us all in old ways of thinking and responding. We need to think about empowering and equipping the ‘subjects’ of bias and inadvertent exclusion. We need to give them the wherewithal to navigate inclusion issues bilaterally. They need to be collaborators in the solution as opposed to recipients of well-meaning gestures from those in charge.
The distance between fairness and guilt is not that far. Yet the collective corporate eagerness to ‘atone for the sins of our forefathers’ (even leaving aside more recent intransigence on inclusion matters), runs the risk of tokenism: of doing what makes everyone feel good in the short-term as opposed to doing what is most effective in the long term.
We need more openness, more dialogue and more real partnership. Those in the “C’ suite – and those advising them – need to regularly check whether inclusion initiatives are rooted in guilt or in genuine equity-based thinking. Only this will ensure that our corporate leaders do not become complicit in unconscious tokenism in their bid to do the right thing and preside over diverse winning teams.
– Buki Mosaku, founder of Diverse-City Think Tank, and RosAcad (Results Oriented Sales Academy)More
Signs of life: London offices still hot-property for major corporations
Much of the UK property industry has been struggling to cope with tighter local restrictions announced by the government this month. However, despite Tier-2 alert status taking hold in the UK capital, an exception to the general downturn in new lettings and acquisitions has emerged in the London office market, which is showing signs of life. A number of large companies including Netflix, Morgan & Stanley and Google have recently undertaken significant office moves into the capital’s biggest and best buildings. This week, we also saw John Lewis gain permission to convert the upper floors of its iconic West End flagship store into new office space, all of which seems counterintuitive given the popular prediction that white-collar workers will not return to working from the office five days a week, even once the pandemic is over.
Big companies are showing a return of confidence in the role of the workplace and investors are taking note. KKR & Co recently bought a stake in London office developer Great Portland estates PLC, while Brookfield Asset Management built up its stake in British Land Co., owner of some of Britain’s best office buildings, in September.
Bloomberg posits that the recent spike in activity could perhaps be explained by the scarcity of large modern office space in London. It’s often easy to forget the time before Covid-19 given its utter dominance in 2020, but there was caution among new developers to progress speculative projects pre-Covid due to Brexit uncertainty, which could be forcing large companies to make moves to secure space now despite not knowing what working culture will look like several months down the line. However, what we are seeing among large companies in terms of working culture, is a general agreement that the role of the office is still important, not so much in terms of physical space, but in its ability to foster a sense of community.
Google CEO Sundar Pichair spoke of focussing in a “hybrid” working model that would include both office and remote working: “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community is upper important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new”. This is a viewpoint that we at Innesco share, with the team now returning to the office one day a week. We have been as pleased to once again support the local businesses surrounding our office on Lamb’s Conduit Street, as we have been to catch up with our colleagues in person more regularly.
It will be fascinating, if a tad daunting, to see what the future holds for the office market globally – and what repercussions there will be for the wider property sector. In today’s increasingly nervous economic, political and social environment, decisions about office location are becoming more, rather than less, important. It appears the well-designed and well-located buildings of central London still hold significant appeal for the cream of the corporate crop. As for everyone else, the unknowns are abundant. Who will work from home? Who will require actual office space? How will they be configured and precisely where should they be located? These are significant questions that will be weighing heavily on the minds of CEOs in the current climate, and will require some serious strategic thinking, new data and planning to resolve.
Andrew Smith, Account Manager, InnescoMore
Is Pandemic-Proof Development Possible?
There is a quick answer to this question (see below), but what has really struck me recently is who is asking. It isn’t just the development community, as you might expect, but also the general public who, as a result of Covid, are thinking in much more detail about how they interact with the buildings they live, work and spend leisure time in. I’m convinced that this will have a lasting impact on how property is developed in future.
The most significant development must surely be a new generation of truly mixed-use buildings and spaces. The trend away from single-use property started some time ago, but I think history will show that the current pandemic has accelerated the rate of change, so that quite soon (perhaps within a decade) we’ll simply marvel at the vast retail- and office-only edifices of the late 20th century. Current projects, such as the regeneration of the Romexpo exhibition centre in Bucharest, Romania and the City Plaza redevelopment in Wuppertal, Germany, serve as excellent examples of how rethinking urban spaces in a much more creative (and complex) fashion is now almost certain to become standard.
Back to the original question, and my short answer is: No, but… The ‘but’ – which leads to a longer and much more interesting response – is: There are a huge number of ways in which property and places can actively help to improve people’s well-being during a pandemic. Savvy real estate practitioners are already taking this on board. Top of their list is the value of outside space, including green areas, lakes, ponds and rivers, in promoting better mental health and reducing virus spread. Major developments around London such as British Land’s Canada Water and Argent Related’s Brent Cross Town have outdoor spaces at their cores, something I think schemes of all sizes in any location could – and should – emulate.
Transport and technology will also be critical for new development with, for example, provision of generous bike storage and shower facilities likely to be included as standard in all kinds of buildings, along with reliable, high bandwidth digital connectivity. Buildings will be significantly greener, as Covid has brought environmental and sustainability issues to the fore, highlighted by the European Commission’s €1 trillion European Green Deal. Right now, the P-THREE mantra of ‘people make places make property’ is more relevant than ever.
Justin Taylor, Co-founder, P-THREEMore
Sympathy for the devil: how cynical behaviour from businesses is unfair both on landlords and on society
Each week living with the Covid-19 pandemic brings a fresh wave of high street casualties as the economic reality takes hold.
Yet, for every genuine business failure for which the impact of Covid has proven too much to bear, there is another using current events as a smokescreen to run from liabilities and invoke an opportunistic restructuring.
That it is commonplace and entirely legal doesn’t mean that it is any more palatable, for this type of activity is never victimless. Suppliers, the Treasury and landlords all stand to lose out, with the latter in the list generally eliciting the least sympathy.
The property industry has often been its own worst enemy when it comes to public perception and few outside it truly understand the role it plays in shaping our towns and cities (for good and bad). As such it should come as no surprise that the prevailing sentiment is that the landlord can afford to take the hit. This is both largely untrue – as said ‘landlords’ are often the pension pots of regular savers – and unhelpful – as it hardly encourages the risk-taking, vision and investment required to make interesting places.
It was refreshing to see @samanthamclary call this out in her EG leader this week, following recent news that landlords of a property syndicate have hit back against preparations by Edinburgh Woollen Mill for administration after months of refusing to pay rent. In a strongly worded-letter the syndicate rejected the retailer’s restructuring plans and suggested its billionaire owners ‘repatriate some capital’ or else return the keys to the properties.
Whether a compromise can be reached remains to be seen but, for the time being, it has at least shone a light on this sharp practice and may encourage others in the industry to be more robust in the face of future threats.