World Economic Forum, Davos 2022: Staying at home?
May 25, 2022
Mark Edward Rose, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Avison Young, Canada, speaking in the The Rise of the Stay-at-Home Economy? session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 24 May. Congress Centre - Situation Room. Copyright: World Economic Forum/ Valeriano de Domenico
I was so honored to participate in Tuesday’s The Rise of the Stay-at-Home Economy Panel at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. The news flow around the retail sector has been overwhelmingly negative in recent years, as the data clearly shows how the Covid pandemic has accelerated the growth in online sales. This has been a massive sea change for us in the real estate sector, with widespread implications for our towns and cities.
Jennifer Schenker, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Innovator, France, Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami, USA Claudia Azevedo, Chief Executive Officer, Sonae, Portugal, Ahmed Ismail, Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, Majid Al Futtaim, United Arab Emirates, Mark Edward Rose, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Avison Young, Canada, speaking in the The Rise of the Stay-at-Home Economy? session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 24 May. Congress Centre - Situation Room. Copyright: World Economic Forum/ Valeriano de Domenico
The WEF was keen to explore what the retail future holds for businesses and communities. So I joined moderator Jennifer Schenker, Founder and Editor-in-Chief at The Innovator, Francis Suarez, the Mayor of Miami, Claudia Azevedo, CEO of SONAE, and Ahmed Ismail, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Properties for a dynamic and wide ranging cross-industry discussion – you can watch the recording of the session here.
Jennifer asked me to kick off with a general outline of the challenges that brick-and-mortar stores and retail brands are confronted with, and where we may be headed with in-person shopping. I started by emphasizing that physical stores are far from dead – a view the other panelists forcefully agreed with.
Indeed, the data shows that the online share of retail sales has started to pull back from its pandemic-fueled peak. Our Avison Young Retail Vitality Index shows that people are making their way back to retail stores. After so much time spent at home, we have increased hunger and thirst for in-person social and interactive experiences. Trips to restaurants and entertainment venues are rising; those shops and stores that are making experience a part of their showroom identity are winning the moment.
That said, we don’t expect the world to revert to 2019; and in any event, the structural changes we see in shopping behavior were well established long before the pandemic hit. Retail is a sector in transition and must embrace the new reality of the digital era rather than fighting it. That means retailers and property owners need to invest in technology, gathering the data needed to understand how consumer behavior and property design is impacting physical store performance. Seamless integration of in-store and online shopping environments is essential to provide shoppers with an experience that is truly the best of both worlds – especially with the Multiverse set to accelerate the pace of change (more of which later in the week!)
Elsewhere, the day involved more key client meetings, and a truly impactful lunch hearing from global political leaders about some of the challenges facing the world – and what needs to be done to restore and then maintain peace and order. The highlight came from former professional boxer and current Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko, who gave a powerful speech. Several clients hosted receptions in the evening, followed by a WEF dinner at which Christine Lagarde, President of the ECB, headlined a star-studded political lineup to discuss the role of the European Union on the world stage – highly topical given the current conflict in Ukraine. Christine set a positive tone and was followed by the Prime Ministers of Greece, Spain, Luxembourg and Belgium who celebrated the current unity and cooperation of the EU and the West. Gina Raimondo, US Commerce Secretary chimed in with support for the European coalition and a commitment to help with keeping it together. A few speakers challenged whether the celebration was premature, given the financial and other challenges currently being faced, but the overall tone was quite positive.
Tomorrow attention shifts to an issue I am truly passionate about – the critical topic of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). We are powered by people, and my latest article on the WEF Agenda website goes live on Thursday morning looking at how a hybrid workplace policy can support DE&I. More on that and reporting back on a specific session on LBGTQI+ Resilience in my next blog.
A quick reminder that you can watch many of the sessions from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 live or on record via their website.