Shopping centre owner Intu Properties today said it had responded to the growth of online shopping with a focus on making its centres into family-friendly destinations for a day out, supported by digital initiatives including a transactional website and free wi-fi.
“We recognise that we are competing with other attractions, not just shopping, for our customers’ time and money and need to offer an attractive product on a national basis,” said chief executive David Fischel.
Intu, which operates nine of the top 20 shopping centres in the UK including intu Trafford Centre, intu Lakeside and intu Metrocentre, said the growth of online shopping meant retailers must now adopt a multichannel approach, with “consistent pricing and service across the physical store and online”, as it published results showing a rise in net rental income and profits.
Net rental income rose to £397m in 2014 from £370m in 2013, while profit for the year came in at £600m, up from £364m the previous year. At the same time its property valuation surplus of £648m was up from £126m last time.
Intu outlined its own approach to multichannel, which puts the emphasis on “digitally connected shopping centres, world-class service and events with a difference.” More than 1.5m people have now registered to use the free wi-fi it now offers in nearly all its centres, with 60% opted in to receive marketing messages.
The company’s transactional website, intu.co.uk, is now a responsive, mobile website, and features, through an affiliate programme, retailers including John Lewis, Next and Topshop. It recorded nearly 3m visits to the website in December 2014, up by 40% compared to the same time in the previous year.
“Our scale allows us to benefit from a wealth of experience and knowledge and apply best practice across all the centres,” said Intu. “With one website, intu.co.uk, we can market all the centres more efficiently to a national audience and attract customers to stay for longer and visit more often.”
Chief executive David Fischel said: “Our digital platform gives customers access to brands in our centres 24 hours a day. Our online presence is growing rapidly with nearly 3m visits to intu.co.uk in December 2014, a year-on-year increase of almost 40%. Our active marketing database is almost 2m strong and in 2015 we will focus on developing opportunities for more regular engagement and, importantly, increased monetisation.
“Our scale as owner of nearly half of the top 20 shopping centres in the UK means we have a strong presence offering key entry points in the areas where retailers need to be.”