08 Dec The continuing opportunity in Convenience Real Estate
We first published this blog in March 2021 as Europe was emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the longstanding advantages of the retail park proposition based on convenience, essential shopping and value for money were becoming increasingly recognized by investors, retailers and shoppers alike.
Following the launch of our third flagship fund, Mitiska European Real Estate Partners 3 (MEREP 3), we thought it timely to update this blog on the continuing opportunity we see in convenience real estate. If you would like to find out more about MEREP 3, please take a look at the recent Q&A we have published.
Retail parks have come a long way from the individual ‘Big Box’ units on urban periphery locations of 10 years ago. Back then, food anchoring was a key aspect of the retail park concept and still remains an important driver of daily footfall today.
But today, the retail park concept has evolved beyond traditional retail and has moved into what we call ‘convenience real estate’. Sited on urban infill locations, these convenience real estate projects now offer restaurants, leisure, fitness, medical practices and pharmacies, click-and-collect pick-up points, electric car charging stations, and many more consumer service needs. In addition, they also cater for mixed-use, with SME units, self-storage facilities, small offices, last mile logistics and other uses.
Our Dansaert and Parc de l’Europe developments are excellent examples of mixed-use convenience real estate projects which combine a retail park with SME business units, that were secured by Mitiska REIM and executed jointly with a specialist partner. These projects have been recognized, amongst others, as addressing evolving consumer, occupier and societal needs by Savills in their report Retail Parks Europe published in November 2021.
The increasing demand for convenience real estate
For the past several years we have seen an accelerating opportunity in convenience real estate driven by the converging trends in retail, urban logistics and multi-let light industrial, and the increasing demand for urban infill sites that offer accessible locations, affordable buildings, flexible design and sustainable solutions to a growing range of end-users.
Several social-economic megatrends are underpinning this evolution:
- Urbanization has led to growing cities in terms of population as well as surface area. With around 75% of Europe’s population now living in urban areas, demand is accelerating for retail as well as services from the consumers that live, work and play in these areas.
- Mobility patterns are changing as well – inner-city congestion, emission and parking charges are encouraging consumers to seek easily accessible locations on urban ring-roads, the traditional base of retail parks, with sites offering free parking and multimodal access such as public transport or bicycle access.
- Consumer behavior is changing as they become more and more time-constrained and therefore increasingly look for convenience when shopping and accessing services. At the same time, consumers are now better informed about products and prices, leading them to search out value-for-money offerings.
- Nearshoring is also a growing trend as disruption to supply chains and increases in transportation costs have led to renewed interest in nearshoring production and logistics facilities closer to consumption. Reuters have reported research showing that Poland and Germany are now the top reshoring locations for European companies.
- Finally, sustainability is now recognized by all stakeholders as a way of creating value by making real estate assets ‘future-proof’ and reducing exposure to risks associated with climate change.
In combination with these megatrends, the increase in e-commerce sales has had a significant impact on the demand for logistics space across Europe. This surge in demand has raised the bar in terms of meeting consumer expectations for quick and timely deliveries and is driving the need for last-mile logistics bases in urban locations.
Demand for multi-unit light industrial schemes is also on the rise, as a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses look to expand their operations on convenient sites close to their customer bases and their employees. The flexible design of convenience real estate developments in a mixed-use setting is ideal for catering to the differing business models and space requirements of SMEs.
This flexibility was highlighted in a March 2022 report by JLL entitled The case for hybrid retail, which also cited Mitiska REIM as taking a holistic approach to capitalize on these converging trends by investing in accessible locations and developing affordable, flexible and sustainable buildings.
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, we expect to see continuing opportunities in convenience real estate and increasing interest in this specialist segment of the market from both investors and tenants alike.
MEREP 3 is a private AIF under the Belgian 2014 AICB (AIF) Law. Mitiska REIM is an alternative investment fund manager licensed by the Belgian regulator FSMA (www.fsma.be). Mitiska REIM acts in its capacity as fund manager of MEREP Light Industrial and MEREP 3 and fund advisor of FRI and FRI 2.