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The importance of thinking digital when developing stores

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British Land this week set out the importance of thinking digital when developing new shopping destinations, while fellow developer Land Securities said that the move towards multichannel meant all retail businesses would not benefit equally from the current upturn in the property market.

British Land, unveiling its full-year results on Wednesday, said it aimed to focus “on the best locations which meet the changing demands of our retail occupiers and their consumers in a more digitally-enabled world.”

It added: “As retailers continue to focus their physical presence on the best space, it is our view that these locations will generate better sustainable long-term returns than other locations.”

Its digital strategy, said the full-year statement, was to improve the occupier and consumer experience, with a focus on increasing convenience and extending reach. It now offers free wi-fi in 11 shopping centres and free wi-fi hotspots at six retail parks. More sites are to come on line in the next six months. “Along with our customer exit surveys,” it said, “this means we can monitor and improve the experience of consumers, increasing dwell time which will support our occupiers’ sales.”

British Land is one of the UK’s leading property developers, owning 25m sq ft of retail property space in the UK, of which 27% is in shopping centres. Its biggest asset is the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, while in the last year it also bought a 50% stake in Bath’s Southgate Centre and completed its development of Whiteley Shopping in Hampshire.

In the year to March 31, British Land reported pre-tax profits of £1.1bn, up from £260m at the same time last year. Underlying profits were up by 8.4% on last year, at £297m.

Meanwhile, fellow property developer Land Securities, behind developments including Bristol’s Cabot Circus shopping centre, warned that the benefits of the economic upturn would not be felt “uniformly” across retail, thanks to the changing way we shop, as it issued its full-year results today. “The structural changes that have deeply affected the sector over recent years will continue, particularly the effect of multichannel retailing, growth in demand for great experiences and convenience, and an increasing polarisation between the best retail destinations and the rest.”

Land Securities also saw strong growth in an improving market; in the year to March 31, pre-tax profits more than doubled from £533m to £1.1bn.

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