Hammerson announces AI trial at Westquay

Shopping centre owner Hammerson has said that it has kick-started an artificial intelligence (AI) trial at its Westquay shopping centre to monitor customer behaviour.

The site in Southampton has deployed technology from Deepnorth into its existing infrastructure, and Hammerson said it will “help us to deliver rich insights for our brands and help us to better quantify the true value of physical space”.

Deepnorth said its technology enables shopping malls, grocery stores and the brick-and-mortar retail environments to “reclaim the consumer traffic from the digital world” by providing them with AI-based analytics and deep learning algorithms.

The technology company said its products allow retailers and shopping centres to “track, assess, interpret and predict” customer behaviour through various demographic monitoring tools.

Hammerson announced the trial as part of its half-year results statement today (29 July), but did not go into detail about the project. It said it continues to look at the use of technology “to improve the experience in our destinations, both for consumers and our brands”.

In 2019 it has rolled out chatbots for its shopping centre websites, and introduced what it describes as affiliate 'Shop Online' portals across its portfolio. These platforms allow customers visiting Hammerson’s shopping centre websites to check stock inventory in individual stores and purchase items for delivery or collection.

Hammerson CEO, David Atkins, spoke of “undoubtedly challenging” conditions in UK retail as part of the half-year report, with net rental income from its UK flagships – including Bullring in Birmingham, Cabot Circus in Bristol, and Union Square in Aberdeen – down by 6.8% year on year.

The company reported that tenant restructuring, seen in the form of a plethora of company voluntary agreements and administrations in recent months, “has been the largest single factor reducing income”. Occupancy at these key sites sits at 96.4%, while footfall edged up by 0.5% during the period.