Hi Gerard! Nice to meet you too! Could you tell us a bit more about your role at IKEA Centres?
I’m Managing Director, which means I have overall responsibility for our business. I couldn't do this without a fantastic team of 2,200 co-workers: together we welcome more than 460 million visitors to our centres each year.
Why did you join IKEA Centres?
I’ve spent most of my working life in the shopping centre industry. The reason for joining IKEA was largely, to be honest, intuition. I fell in love with the vision and the values. It was natural for me to want to play a role in creating a better everyday life for the many people, which is the IKEA vision. I couldn't resist the challenge of bringing three former independent companies together, finding common ways of working and establishing a new strategy for a global company. So, that’s a chance I took and started working in the summer of 2015. We’ve come a long way – we are showing great results so far, and we are on solid financial ground.
So, who is IKEA Centres?
We build meeting places with a blue-and-yellow heart, which is the IKEA store. IKEA Centres is moving from a traditional property-driven approach to one in which people and the planet lead our interaction with customers, tenants and communities. We are on a journey to create a new kind of centre.
Is the IKEA store important in your shopping centres?
The IKEA store is crucial to us and a key part of our approach to the future. We have a “retail heart”, and that means we are always working from a customer-centric approach. IKEA Centres and all our partners benefit from the IKEA store, and the IKEA store benefits from the opportunity of being where the many people meet.
You say that your centres are “where the many people meet”. Who do you think the many people are?
Well, I can’t point them out one by one, but they are the majority of people – and they are different from location to location. This is where the centres can distinguish themselves from the standalone IKEA stores. As part of a global brand, the stores must remain true to the concept and the IKEA range, while the centre can totally adapt to the needs and desires of the local community. So, that is something we aim for. We try to identify the local “many people” and see how we should tune the customer proposition to make it relevant to all of these people in that specific community. What’s your meeting place concept about? We are on a journey to create a new concept of meeting places, that we see as the evolution ofthe traditional idea of shopping centres. We want to create centres that offer not only shopping experiences, but also emotional, technological and educational experiences.
Where do you see yourselves today and in the future?
I see our portfolio shifting more and more towards urban locations, preferably downtown, but densely urban areas are our target. I see the number of people that visit us growing from the current 460 million, to beyond one billion in 2025. I see our relationship with the people that visit us strengthen in a way that they will basically automatically choose to visit us – for specific reasons like fulfilling a need, but also because they think it’s a fun place to go to orthe place to be.