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How and why Intu is using digital to attract shoppers to its centres

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Intu today set out how and why it is using digital as part of its mission to create a “compelling experience” for customers both on and offline.

The retail operator, which operates the Trafford Centre, Lakeside and Metrocentre among others, promises to provide the “most digitally connected shopping centres” alongside “world class service” and events as it focuses on creating environments where retailers can flourish.

Chief executive David Fischel said the Intu strategy was to develop, invest in and manage the “very best” shopping centres. developing, investing in and creatively managing the very best shopping centres.

“Retailers,” he said, “are responding positively to taking space in centres where change and investment are underway. We attract over 400 million customer visits a year and aim to provide them with a great experience which encourages them to come more often, stay for longer and spend more with our retailers.”

This is important, says Intu, as multichannel retail matures, bringing stores and online together into a seamless shopping experience. Retailers, it says, are looking for larger stores in the best locations as they manage the shape and size of their store portfolios. It cites the example of fashion retailer Next, which said in its latest full-year results that it had increased its net trading space by 42% while increasing store numbers by 7%. “Over this period,” said Intu in its half-year results, “they have increased the average size of their stores at Intu centres by 33% as they have repositioned to larger format flagship stores in the best retail locations.” Online retailers are also opening stores in shopping centres. Simply Be, for example, now has 16 stores opened since 2011, half of which are in leading shopping centres, and a quarter in Intu centres.

Intu said it welcomed government plans to consult on extending Sunday trading. “It would generate positive economic activity and create thousands of jobs, but first and foremost it’s what our customers tell us they want – not necessarily to shop longer but to have the flexibility to shop when they want and where they want.”

Intu is executing its digital strategy through services that link stores and online. It currently markets online to a database of more than 2.2m subscribers, including 60% of those who register for its in-centre free wi-fi service and say yes to marketing.

Meanwhile, it has 250 affiliate retailers trading through a transactional website that gives customers access to retailers both online and in the shopping centre. The site saw 19m visits in the last year, up by 40% compared to the previous year.

The update came as Intu reported profits of £262.3m in the six months to June 30, down from £602.3m at the same time last year. While net rental income of £207.7m and underlying earnings of £88.7m were both up compared to the same time last year, its property revaluation surplus was down at £162.2m, compared to £573.3m last time.

Image: intu Watford

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