“Rethinking retail peripheries to create the cities of tomorrow – Retail Strategy > Retail

Frey has just been chosen as the brands’ favorite real estate agency! This is an asset to accompany them in the new mixed shopping centers that Frey intends to create at the entrance of the city. Explanations by Pascal Barboni, Deputy Director of Development at Frey.

What is your assessment of the current situation of commercial premises in France? 🇧🇷


In general, commercial areas at the entrance to towns are accused of a certain number of evils: urban expansion, commercial decline in the city center, the problem of energy sobriety… Not to mention the “boxes” built in the 1980s also spoil the landscape. This is not false, even if commerce is not solely responsible.
Furthermore, on balance, it should also be clear that peripheral areas are also undergoing profound changes in consumption trends: weakening of very large food retail formats, development of e-commerce… low vacancy despite the pandemic (around 8 % in 2020 in commercial areas vs 13% for other types of shopping centres), good accessibility and a parking offer adequate to needs. They have proven their usefulness: 70% of French spending is still done in stores on the outskirts of cities, which demonstrates their interest in the public. Having practicality as their only virtue, these peri-urban shopping areas are therefore economic successes, but also urban failures that need to be transformed and transformed.


Have you quantified the potential of the main commercial areas to “rebuild”?


So far, we estimate that in the 243 commercial zones on the outskirts of the 21 largest French urban areas, there is a deposit of artificial earth of 55,000 hectares. This ultimately represents a theoretical potential of around 70 million m2 of multipurpose densification (services, housing, offices, commerce, etc.).


What solution do you provide?


As an operator specializing in the urban and commercial rehabilitation of city entrances, we are well aware of the challenges of transforming these areas. But we are also strong advocates of physical commerce. That’s why we partnered with Banques des Territoires and CDC Habitat. The idea is to bring together our know-how to transform these aging areas into real city neighborhoods, attractive and mixed. Thanks to this fund, with a first phase of 200 million euros, we can acquire the land and proceed with its consolidation. In addition, we will accompany the merchants present on site to help them find the best possible facilities and avoid interrupting their activities during the works. Of course, these are long-term projects, which is why this partnership extends over a period of 20 years.


Concretely, how are you going to redesign these trading venues?


More than shopping centers, we mainly create centers of collective interest, lively, friendly and respectful of the environment. Through the places we manage and develop, we want to show that the use of commerce goes beyond simple market transactions and participates in the connection of individuals. We stand for sustainable trade, both for the environment and for our visitors and merchants. As an indication, in the first half of 2022, revenues for tenants on our websites increased by +5.2% compared to the level recorded in 2019 before the health crisis and clearly outperformed the industry index by -8.5% (source CNCC).


Can you name a restructuring project you are working on?


Our latest program is the one we are developing in partnership with Migros France. We joined forces to restructure the Haute-Savoie Vitam website. This is a good example of transformation. We want to ensure that this new Vitam is a vehicle for creating wealth for the area and generating a new urban mix. We came here to consolidate an asset created in 2009 and also to deal with an urban vacant lot with an extension that will integrate commerce, offices, housing, services…


You are the first real estate company to become a company with a mission in 2021. How does this impact your activity? 🇧🇷


We do not expect to be a company with a mission to work on environmental and social issues. I recall that in 2010 we had already been pioneers by being the first real estate agency to deliver a property certified with high environmental quality. (HQE). But it is true that the Pact Law gave us the opportunity to really implement a CSR strategy. We set ourselves objectives and report annually to all stakeholders on how we are part of this progress process.



Have you formalized this progress approach into a shopping mall concept?


Yes, the first program that fully illustrates our trajectory and our social, social and environmental ambitions is the “shopping tour in the heart of Alsace” program. In a way, it’s our first “mission-based” Shopping Promenade, with strong markers. We created a 5-hectare agro-park to allow around thirty farmers to produce in an ultra-short circuit; We also created the Social Club, a House of Culture and Associations, the Social Market, a space dedicated to promoting rational consumption, for example through second-hand goods, 2 health centers…


Finally, how do you see digital commerce evolving in the future?


There are two ways of designing tomorrow’s commerce: either physically developing it and adapting it to new consumption models, or completely dematerializing it. We are obviously in favor of the first solution, without ignoring the advantages of digital. But we see it as a tool at the service of brands and customers and not as the center of our strategy. We also favor the fact of offering moments of disconnection in our centers, which may seem against the will of some of our competitors.

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