close icon

Expert opinions, profiles, market trends, debate and the latest news in an ever-changing sector

RETAIL • EVENTS • DIGITAL Tuesday 19th April 2016

A Multi Faceted Market

A Multi Faceted Market

A Multi Faceted Market

This September will see the first Completely Retail Marketplace for the Continental European market. so we thought it would be good to get the views of one of the Continent’s biggest shopping centre owners and redevelopers, Multi.  We spoke to Françoise Dechesne, the group’s Managing Director for the Netherlands and Belgium.

Multi is not a name that many in the UK shopping centre sector might register but in Continental Europe – and beyond – it is big news. It’s one of the biggest owners of shopping centres across Europe and Turkey and currently owns or manages more than 130 assets. 

Its centres welcome more than 400m visitors each year who spend an estimated €4bn in more than 6,000 stores, restaurants and attractions. The group’s asset management, development, and mall management activities give it insights into many locations beyond its heartland of the Netherlands and Belgium. Other countries where it is active include Germany, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, Slovakia, Turkey, the Czech Republic and the UK.

Françoise Dechesne took over responsibility for the Netherlands and Belgium portfolio in October of last year. Previously CEO of the MAB Development Group, Dechesne has responsibility for a portfolio which includes 18 shopping centres under management, four shopping centres under construction and a significant future development pipeline.

Speaking in her Amsterdam office, Dechesne observes that it is a faceted market at present: “Some retail sectors are waning, while others have potential for growth. Certain regions that have an ageing and shrinking population are seeing a decline in the retail sector, while attractive cities are seeing growth. Some types of shopping centres or retail areas lack appeal and relevance on a fundamental basis, while others are becoming more fashionable”. 

In the face of these disparities, she believes that a key factor is to be decisive on what you are doing and where.

“The most important thing is to make clear choices: certain retail locations and shopping centres will be winners, while others will lose. We believe in the centres of the largest cities and cities that have additional appeal – through history, quality of public space, or some other additional appeal to consumers. 

“And we believe in supermarket-anchored convenience centres in residential areas or in the centres of smaller cities.”

In February, Multi opened the 5,000 sq m Hanzewijk Shopping Centre in Kampen. It’s a good example of a neighbourhood, convenience centre and is anchored by Lidl. The scheme has been part of a wider regeneration which has seen the demolition and construction of 950 homes to rejuvenate what was a tired post-war development.

Dechesne comments: “These centres operate on the basis of convenience, proximity and frequency. They are embedded in their local context, and also have a social function. We believe this type of shopping centre has a good future”.

While Multi does develop from scratch, its emphasis is increasingly on the redevelopment or extension of existing centres.

She confirms: “Our business will increasingly be aimed at improvement and extension of existing retail areas, rather than the creation of new retail”.

The other project she cites as being emblematic of what Multi does is the Forum Rotterdam. The centre is in the heart of the city and is anchored by the largest Primark store in Europe and Donner, one of the most famous bookstores in the Netherlands.

Dechesne observes: “The Forum encompasses the redevelopment of old, existing retail and office space, and has also involved the transformation of an old office tower into new city apartments”. It’s easy to see that this is a model which has relevance in various UK locations.

In terms of what is the biggest challenge facing the shopping centre sector, she is emphatic: “Footfall, footfall, footfall”.

Françoise Duchesne. Multi’s Stadsfeestzaal scheme in Antwerp  

“Shopping centres have to prove every single day that they are able to meet the specific needs of consumers." Françoise Dechesne.

They need to supply a retail offering and an atmosphere that really appeals to customers in the catchment area. Why would a consumer return to a shopping area if the range of retail offerings doesn’t change?

“On top of this, the role of the retailer is becoming ever more crucial. We need to be extremely sensitive to signals from retailers related to their business and their demand for locations. Shopping centres will only be successful if retailers and owners
co-operate effectively.”

“Retail formats operate on the basis of shorter timeframes and constant change. Property is, by nature, inert: we have to be more flexible and innovative. This can make shopping centres more attractive to consumers, as well as retailers.”

Given that Multi asset manage for Blackstone Real Estate Partners, the St Enoch Centre in Glasgow and Stratford Shopping Centre in East London, it seems appropriate to ask Dechesne if she sees there being any further scope for Dutch retail brands to enter the UK.

“The Netherlands is a pretty small country and Dutch brands tend to expand initially in our neighbouring countries. 

“Good examples of this are Rituals, The Sting, G-Star, and Scotch & Soda – who’ve all gone on to establish a UK presence. But we are also seeing other Dutch retailers with ambitions and initiatives to expand their business across the border, such as the concept store, Hutspot or – on the food and beverage side – La Place.” 

Looking ahead, Dechesne does not underestimate the challenge facing her in the Netherlands and Belgium and the rest of the European shopping centre sector.

“In the Netherlands and Belgium, the retail landscape will also change dramatically. Many retailers need to adapt their business models. Seamless integration of online and offline will be an important change. In the first place, retailers will review and often change their location preferences, based on the sector in which they operate and changes they plan to make to their business model. But the size of units may also change due to the integration of online in the business model. 

“The integration of click-and-collect, more food and beverage elements in stores and whether stores should change their focus from being places of transaction to experience spaces all need to be addressed.

“To accommodate new ways of retailing, the shopping centres themselves may also need to change. These changes may include greater flexibility, the introduction of technology facilities to meet retailer and consumer demands and other ways of marketing specific shopping centres. 

“As an owner, we know we will need to reinvent many aspects of the shopping centre.”

Dechesne relishes the challenge and the scope of the portfolio she has responsibility for: “Despite the fact that I’ve only worked for Multi for a relatively short time, I already feel fully integrated. 

“Multi is a very ambitious company and that is a great fit for me. The portfolio has doubled in size in the past year and that appeals to me, too. I love to be challenged.”




New Amsterdam Marketplace launched for pan-European retail market

As the retail sector becomes increasingly globalised, the hugely-successful Completely Retail Marketplace events are expanding into Continental Europe with a new event on September 6th in Amsterdam.

The show will be a powerful platform for the retailers and property providers who are either already operating on a pan-European basis or are exploring this potential. 

The Completely Group’s Dom Millar comments: “The cross-border activity in the retail sector is now at an unprecedented level as brands look to export their success into new territories. 

“Having seen how Completely Retail Marketplace has facilitated networking and deal making for the UK and Irish sectors, there is now clear demand from the Continent for a similar platform.

“The Amsterdam event will focus on the Western European market, and will also provide an opportunity for many UK brands to assess the potential for cross-border expansion. We will be supporting that opportunity by providing free entry into the show for retailers and making a contribution to their travel costs.”

Completely Retail Marketplace Amsterdam will be held in the Beurs Van Berlage, the exquisitely-restored former stock exchange building in the heart of Amsterdam’s vibrant retail district. 

Frank van Sebille, Chairman of VastGoedOverleg (VGO), the Netherlands’ real estate industry body, comments: “Real estate is now a global business and the expansion of retailers across territories in Europe and beyond is a vivid illustration of this
trend. VGO is committed to promoting the Dutch real estate sector and the sharing of market intelligence. 

“We believe that the Completely Retail Marketplace event in Amsterdam will be a powerful platform for bringing together retailers and real estate providers.”

The format and amenities for the event will be exactly as they are for the UK shows which are now in their fifth successful year. 

The Amsterdam event will also feature the very popular Soapbox sessions which give new, emerging or expanding tenants the opportunity to take to the stage and pitch their brands to an audience of landlords, agents and retail destinations. 

Arjen Boesveldt, Partner and Head of Retail, Cushman & Wakefield Netherlands, one of the event’s core partners, explains the attraction for them, “Cushman & Wakefield has always found the Completely Retail Marketplace events to be really productive for its retail specialists. The format is very straightforward and focused around meeting and networking. It is a marketplace in the true sense of the word: all stakeholders – varying from landlords, retailers, advisors and municipalities – meet and discuss trends, developments and opportunities.” 

For more information, please contact Shelley Batey ( or go to