Keeping consumers confident

Broadcaster and business journalist Adam Shaw, who hosted the Shopping Centre Management Conference, set the tone for the day’s agenda.

Following introductions from Shopping Centre’s editor Graham Parker, who highlighted the conference’s focus on making centres more engaging and welcoming places for the customer, and GL Hearn planning director, and Revo’s president, Giulia Bunting, who backed the importance of building communities and providing more than just leisure, the event’s host for the third time, broadcaster and business journalist Adam Shaw, got the ball rolling at the Shopping Centre Management Conference.

Shaw gave an economic overview, laying out some hard, yet ultimately optimistic views of the British retail economy, focusing on economic growth – which he reiterated is 75 per cent greater than that of Germany. The problems, he says, is that despite continued inflation, it is never as high as it is expected to be. Although the the economy is growing, people’s wages are not. Workers, he said, are employed, but they are underemployed. 

During his presentation, Shaw gave an analogy he picked up during his time making a documentary for the BBC in the Amazon rainforest. The story told of an old woman, who represents ‘the truth’, being turned away time and time again whilst seeking shelter; and a strong man, who represents ‘the story’, who is welcomed openly at every home. The two then come together with the truth entering into homes hidden under the story’s colourful cloak. Applying this to retail, he said that success comes from how a centre or a brand sells its story.

“It’s about seeing how people are connecting to [your story] and how to change people’s perceptions,” Shaw said. “That’s why this is important. Consumer confidence is down. There is a sense of uneasiness – which is odd, because the economy is doing well. We’ve had 17 quarters of economic growth. Why are people so worried when the economy is growing? But here is the problem: sure the economy looks good, but people don’t feel it. They have less disposable income.”

So in the face of uncertainty, how can businesses safeguard the continuing presence of their customers? “Despite concerns, there’s a huge opportunity at a time when consumers want something different,” Shaw explained. “When you look at some of the big developments in the big businesses and you look back at their history, they came out of times of big uncertainty, when people were looking for a different sort of answer. It’s about saying ‘if you want change, I can give you something new’. The opportunities are there, I think, for the taking.”

His closing advice was about staying focused on what is important to your business. “After 30 years of covering business and economics,” he concluded, “the key differentiating factor between people and businesses that are successful is the ability to know ‘that information is useful, that information is not, and I need to know where I am concentrating.’”

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