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Malls must be more than shopping to survive Web

CANNES, France -- As growing numbers of shoppers move online, European mall owners are looking to pull in customers by including services that can't be replicated on the Web like hospital care and government offices.

Malls must become more like full-service community centers to survive in the face of a growing list of failed retailers like HMV and Blockbuster, property experts at the annual MIPIM trade fair in Cannes, France, told Reuters.

On the flip side of that retail revolution, the experts see big gains in warehousing as more goods are sent and returned via post.

“The days of the stand-alone mall are numbered,” said David Roberts, the chief executive of architect Aedas, one of the five largest practices in the world. The company has been involved in city master plan projects in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

“In 20 years time you will find stores that sell books and DVDs replaced by sites that give people a reason to go the mall ... art galleries, education centers and health and spa treatments.”

Florencio Beccar, fund manager of CBRE Global Investors European shopping center fund, cited the recent purchase of a mall in Germany, saying the fact it included a large medical center was “a big plus.”

“I once saw a clinic in a Brazilian mall where you checked in and are buzzed on a device when they are ready. In the meantime you go shopping,” he said. “With the ageing population in Europe you can see that happening more and more.”

CBRE Investors, which has about 14 billion euros (US$18.2 billion) of retail property under management in Europe and 5,000 tenants, also owns a mall in southern Sweden with a library and a local municipal office, he said.

“More shopping center developers will have early talks with these sorts of tenants as well as the big anchor retailers,” Beccar said.

Mall owners like Land Securities, Intu, Westfield and Klepierre have increased the number of restaurants and cinemas to persuade shoppers to stay longer, and offer promotions to reward frequent shoppers who can be tracked via their mobile phones.

Community Centers, Adventure Parks

But these steps don't go far enough, some experts say, in light of a forecast last month that 90 percent of retail sales growth in Britain, France and Germany between 2012 and 2016, or 91.5 billion euros, is expected to be online, according to the property arm of French insurer AXA, which manages 43 billion euros of assets.

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Is this Dec. 11, 2012 file photo, an Eiffel Tower replica is seen at the shopping mall Galeries Lafayette in Berlin. As growing numbers of shoppers move online, European mall owners are looking to pull in customers by including services that can't be replicated on the Web like hospital care and government offices. (AFP)

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