Hammerson's head of CX on new use of retail space

Have retailers ever considered that their shopping centre landlord could become a logistics partner? It might become a reality in the not too distant future.

Kathryn Malloch, head of customer experience at Hammerson, says her property group is always looking at ways to make the lives of its tenants and consumers easier – and it is in the early stages of exploring additional "aggregator" services for its retail partners.

Hammerson’s shopping centres, which include Birmingham’s Bullring, Brent Cross in London, and Cabot Circus in Bristol, already offer click & collect facilities for customers to pick up their online orders. In addition, the landlord provides “hands-free” shopping opportunities, where customers can securely leave  bags and continue their shop or leisure pursuits without hindrance.

“We’re aggregating a number of services across different retailers as a convenience factor for customers,” explains Malloch.

“You can see how this could translate into other areas, whether that is helping on last-mile delivery and consolidating some of the back-end stuff for retailers.”

Malloch says that one of the main reasons people leave Hammerson centres is because they have too many bags, and once they drop them back at their car they tend not to head back to the mall.

“It’s a difficult one for individual retailers to crack,” she notes.

“We’re looking at how we evolve it – do we offer carry to car services or will we deliver all of that to home or hotel? We very much feel we have a part to play.”

While such propositions are only in the early stages of planning, other innovations are on the verge of launching. Hammerson’s data-driven approach – it uses beacons, measures footfall patterns and works closely with its tenants to understand shopper behaviour – means it is continually looking to evolve its visitor experience.

“We have been looking at frictionless payment and what solutions we can put in place for customers,” Malloch comments.

“We’re soon to go live in one of our centres with payments through an app, so customers can drive in and out without having to queue at a machine.”

Westquay's ice rink
Westquay's ice rink

All of this is to come, but the major change already seen in Hammerson shopping centres over the last few years is in how they have become less about retail and more about events, food & beverage, and leisure. The role of the landlord has become more consumer focused too, Malloch admits, and as Hammerson tales greater responsibility in attracting the crowds to its site it has invested in multiple insights tools to aid the process.

“I think we have a very active role compared to ten years ago when our role was about letting space,” Malloch remarks.

“We create brands in our right. We work hard to curate the brand identity and have an active role in driving footfall for occupying retailers – it’s not just about giving them space and letting them do it.”

Visitors to this year’s all new Retail Expo on 1 May can hear more from Malloch as part of her panel discussion, which takes place on the Store Design & Experience Stage at London Olympia.

She will join Sue Shepherd, centre manager of London Designer Outlet, and moderator Jennifer Acevedo, editor-in-chief of VMSD magazine, for an in-depth debate on the future role of shopping centres and how to use retail space to drive experiences.