Guest blog: What makes a vibrant centre attractive?

As part of our ‘Vibrant Cities: Shopping Places Matter’ campaign, we spoke to Roberto Limetti, member of the ECSP Executive Board on behalf of founding member CNCC Italy, the Italian Council of Shopping Places to tell us what he thinks makes a vibrant centre attractive.

Shopping places are an essential part of every community. Success can often depend on a variety of different values and elements. Roberto gives his views below.

What does a shopping place look like?

A shopping place to me looks like…life. Shopping places will always be the heart of our local communities. If I were to use an image, I would say that a shopping place is a ‘covered piazza’, where the community can buy the things they need and want, but also come together to enjoy social events, concerts and sports. It is also a place that public authorities can use as a hub and a point of reference for important community services. The best example at the moment is how many shopping places are being used as Covid-19 testing and vaccination points.

What are the key drivers to success?

Success is dependent on serving the everyday needs of the individual customer as well as the broader community in which it operates. However, loyalty is often anchored off the shopping experience where customers keep going back because they enjoy spending time there. As such, a modern shopping place is often an eclectic mix of retail but also leisure (cinema, playgrounds, family entertainment centres), sports (gyms, sport facilities), culture (museums, exhibitions), services (post offices, public administration offices, co working spaces), health care (clinics, dental care, medical hubs).

How do shopping places add to the vibrancy of urban centres?

A vibrant shopping place goes beyond simply fulfilling the needs of the community it serves. It is an extension of the urban centre itself, woven into the fabric of the local environment, becoming a desired destination where people want to go and where the community can come together safely to enjoy their free time. It can also be a focus for private and public initiatives, innovation and investment.

What’s next, what are shopping places prioritising at the moment?

Shopping centres will have a fundamental role in getting back to “normality” as quickly as possible, when the time is right. Until then, the most important thing is to rebuild customer confidence following extended lockdowns and closures due to the Covid-19 crisis. Shopping places have always offered a safer experience and Covid-19 has not changed this. Since the beginning of the pandemic, shopping places have adhered to the highest hygiene and safety standards recommended by authorities to prevent any outbreaks. In addition, a single shopping place with one management team is far more able to coordinate and deliver all of the health requirements to ensure a protected environment.