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Time for the future-proof city center

city center Alkmaar
Due to the corona crisis and the long-term closure of non-essential stores, vacancy rates will increase. A vacancy wave is coming that we do not yet see directly reflected in the figures. Locatus measures physical vacancy: stores that are actually empty. Not all vacant stores are visibly empty or are offered for rent publicly. This gives a distorted picture of what is actually happening in the Dutch shopping streets. Now is the time for a strong approach for the future of our inner cities.

Porch of increasing vacancy levels
We speak to many retailers and retail chains who are taking a critical look at all their locations and which ones they can close. It may be that a retailer has terminated a lease, but the lease term is not over for the time being. Often the first step is to find a party who wants to take over the contract or to find a temporary filling. We see that more and more. This is a precursor to increasing vacancy rates if no new tenants are found.

Focus on largest retail cities
Retailers will base their choice of location even more on the number of visitors, the regional appeal and the turnover per square meter that they can achieve. They are also looking more closely at the presence of their target group and the related support base. Many of them are betting on the largest and most popular shopping cities. From Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Groningen and Maastricht. It is more difficult for the layer below. Especially for cities where there are actually already too many stores, such as Sittard, Rijswijk, Lelystad, Almelo and Den Helder.

Future-proof shopping area
A lively center can be maintained by making clear choices. The idea that inner cities are primarily for shopping must be abandoned. Now is the time to work towards an attractive, pleasant, sustainable and therefore future-proof city center area. Municipalities must take the lead.

The solution is a combination of reducing the number of store meters, clustering stores in the core shopping area, bringing back functions that left years ago such as small-scale offices or public services, adding new functions, transformation into housing and investments in public space. Among other things, this requires more flexibility in zoning plans. What is not allowed, instead of what is. Think of a 'center destination' that allows housing, offices, stores, leisure, hospitality and culture, but casinos and coffee shops, for example, are not allowed.

Join forces
A future-proof inner city can only be created if municipalities, owners, retailers and financiers join forces. This requires more freedom from municipalities in zoning plans, from property owners the courage to invest, from financiers to think in terms of opportunities rather than risks, and from retailers flexible entrepreneurship that continuously adapts to the changing needs of consumers.

Such cooperation is in everyone's interest. A lively center is good for the retailer. A healthy retail market is good for the property owner and the financier. And the municipality benefits from a healthy retail market in a vibrant downtown, which in turn makes the downtown vibrant for residents. 

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Chris Lanting

Director Retail


 2008-2016: Dynamis Strijbosch Thunnissen Makelaars Region Arnhem/Nijmegen:

Created the retail leasing department and extended this profitable business unit to a market leader in the region.

2016-Now: Colliers International:

Director Retail. Responsible for Retail Agency / specialized in shopping centres and cooperation with other serviceslines within Colliers which are active in Retail (Asset Services, Retail Marketing, Design&Development, Research, Valuations, Food&Beverage and Capital Markets. Strongly focussed on data driven service en solutions as well as an integrated marketapproach. 

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