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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » November 12, 2008
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Women Feel Good at Our Malls
November 12, 2008   
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Mayland Real Estate is a company that the Casino Group, a French corporation operating on the international market, established to carry out new developer projects in Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Yann Guen, a member of the managing board of Mayland Real Estate, talks to Magdalena Fabijańczuk.

A few weeks ago, you said that Mayland designed its shopping malls specially for women. What did you mean by that?
Sociological research shows that in 73 percent of cases, shopping-related decisions are made by women. Developers are creators of certain products, in our case it is shopping malls, and so they have to know exactly who their target is. It is also a question of choice, as any product designed for everyone becomes bland with time and at the end of the day, nobody really likes it. Mayland addresses its products to women, from young girls to single women and married women, wives, mothers and grandmothers. We watch their needs and expectations carefully. Women are sensitive to detail, paying attention to things which are of no significance to men, such as the ambiance of a place, scents, cozy interiors, the type of lighting, architectural details and interior design.

Obviously, the most important thing is to provide our customers with the right selection of goods on sale, but still, visitors to our malls need to feel good there, shopping in a pleasant atmosphere that makes them want to come and visit again. For example, we once noticed that walking through revolving doors, women would watch their shoes to check if their high heels were intact. So we lined the floor around revolving doors with carpets, making wearing high heels much more comfortable. Ladies pay a great deal of attention to restrooms and so we are equally attentive while designing restrooms in shopping malls. We remember the finest details, such as hooks to hang your coat or purse on.

Developers of modern retail space have started to locate new projects in smaller cities and towns more frequently than before. For example, Mayland shopping centers are being built in Słupsk and Bielsko-Biała. Do you think buyers in such places have lower expectations than in, say, Warsaw, Cracow and Wrocław?
I believe we are dealing with the same kind of customer in all of those locations. To a large extent, customers' tastes are derived from the mass culture we are all part of. Small cities are another stage in the maturation of every modern retail market. The rise of modern shopping centers in Słupsk or Bielsko-Biała is only natural, resulting from how the trade is evolving in Poland. There is absolutely no reason to provide buyers in smaller cities with fewer privileges. Contemporary consumers are very much alike regardless of where they live and so shopping malls in both major cities and small cities come with exactly the same constituents.

The only difference is the size of a given project and the selection of tenants. We cannot build too much retail space in a town with low economic potential. The chief task for the developer is to adjust to the needs of the locals and so the selection of tenants, of brands, will be slightly different for different towns and cities. One of the main problems facing every brand is to determine the social profile of the customer, because consumer expectations have become complicated. There are a lot of people who always go to a food discount store to buy pasta and milk at the lowest possible price, while at the same time, they will buy a dress in a very expensive boutique. Getting to know the customer is an elusive task nowadays and to identify the needs and expectations of buyers is a major challenge for retailers and shopping mall designers.

Mayland has opened three new shopping centers this year, Karolinka in Opole, Jantar in Słupsk and Pogoria in D±browa Górnicza. Do you have more big plans for the future?
We want to maintain the present pace and deliver three shopping centers per year. Next year, we will start construction of the Aquabella shopping mall in Piła, scheduled for completion in 2010. That same year we will also open Koniczynka, a shopping center in Bielsko-Biała. We are also planning to build new shopping malls in Szczecin and Cracow. In two years, we will open a new section of the Jantar shopping center in Słupsk, thus doubling its lease space to over 50,000 square meters.

What makes Mayland shopping centers stand out among all others?
Any decision to build a shopping center is like investing in the stock exchange. You can choose to invest vast capital in a single flagship project or alternatively, divide your assets evenly, which in our case means diversification of projects. The latter is what we do. Our shopping centers come in different sizes and feature different design concepts. Every project is a new adventure for us. Shopping centers cannot be similar to one another, but they may have a common denominator. It is like with a good cook, regardless of what he or she cooks, you can always identify one special flavor note. We too try to give a specific feel to the malls we build, seeking to make them tasteful, warm and cozy places.

Will the trouble on the financial markets derail your plans? How is construction of Mayland shopping malls financed?
All the malls we have built so far have been 100 percent paid for, with no outstanding financial obligations on our part. We own land for projects that we have planned for the next several years and we also have the financial resources to start the projects and carry them out. The economic situation is changing and that is only natural. We are not afraid of the crisis, because we believe fears of a financial tsunami are much exaggerated and the effects of the crisis are under control. The economy goes through cycles, one ends and another begins. In the economic situation of today, the key thing is to react early. To a large extent, management is about being able to adapt to changing conditions. For that reason, these days we double-check the prices of land we buy for our projects, more carefully than ever before. I believe that in the face of a slump in the economy, the worst strategy of all is to try to save on people, because later you will have to do tremendous work to get them back anyway. That's why I am very far from making any hasty personnel decisions.
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