31.01.2019, Property Forum EU – Interview Bouke-Pieter van Dijk – By Ákos Budai
Real estate investors tend to keep doing things in exactly the way as they did in the year before. For a long time this worked out well, but to stay in the race, one must make use of the data available. Bouke-Pieter van Dijk, Director of Retail Atlas Schweiz and one of the speakers of the upcoming RICS European Retail Conference talked to Property Forum about his company.
What prompted you to create Retail Atlas Schweiz?
We want to give organisations a better understanding of the retail real estate market to help make informed strategic decisions. In Switzerland, there is poor availability of retail data like floor surface, vacancy rates, footfall and others. This was a big surprise to me since I worked more than 15 years as a retail real estate analyst in The Netherlands, where these data are readily available. Thorough analysis is needed more than ever before: our data show that 540 stores of the non-food retail chains were closed in 2018 in Switzerland, while only about 200 new opened. To supply the right data to analyse where risks and opportunities lie in this challenging market, we created Retail Atlas. The product was created in partnership with consultancy firm Immocompass from Zürich, who is specialised in new data technologies and has a strong understanding of the Swiss market.
What are the key functions available to your users? How can they use it to better their business?
We have a constantly updated set of data on all Swiss store locations which is enriched with different layers such as demographics, location quality and real estate characteristics. This brings a range of relevant insights such as: how is the retail mix in a specific area in comparison to a benchmark, which industries are under- and overrepresented, which retail chains are missing and on which locations are retailers opening or closing stores. Our customers can easily get access to these data by online dashboards. Besides, we use the data and its algorithms for modelling. For example, our risk model gives for every store the probability that the retailer will leave in the near future. Finally, we provide tailormade consulting based on our data.
In your experience, how open holders of retail properties are to new technologies?
Many real estate investors tend to keep doing things in exactly the way as they did in the year before. For a long time, this worked out well in Switzerland. Unfortunately, there is a growing number of shopping locations where vacancy problems occur and many centres are fighting for the same customers and retailers. The only way to take the best business decisions is to know exactly where your future chances lie and how to position yourself. New technologies and good data are an important fundament to this knowledge and the ones who are open to it will stand out.
Do you see them taking full advantage of the data available to them?
A stronger focus on the long term is needed. Retail property owners need to know exactly who their target group is, which industries and retailers this target group attracts, where their competitors in the catchment area are and how they can distinguish in relation to all competitors. This knowledge might bring insights that are unexpected such as the need to focus on something else than retail. It is better to get these insights in an early stage than at a time when it is already too late. Whatever the strategy is, it can only be developed when you have a detailed data based insight of the market. And that´s exactly what Retail Atlas delivers.
Do you plan to make your product available outside of Switzerland?
We are currently focused on the successful rollout in Switzerland and as a small company are putting all our efforts hereon. We have plans for a European product in the near future and happy to start on a small scale if there is interest for specific locations.