Why retail landlords are getting Intu tech

The temperature has not dropped significantly, but Britain is still experiencing a freeze - a Brexit brain freeze. The political flip-flopping this week over Brexit ahead of the Budget next month was properly headache inducing.

First we had Philip Hammond’s assurance that money would not be spent preparing for a “no-deal” Brexit until the “very last moment”.

Then, minutes later, we had Theresa May’s assurance, having refused to say earlier whether she’d vote for Brexit now, that the government would spend money preparing for every eventuality - including a no-deal scenario.

It was yet further evidence that the Tories are more intent on infighting than fighting for the best deal, which is pretty depressing. Fortunately, we’re all getting used to sitting in the back of the car as it careers in slow motion towards the wall and are making sure we are investing in every safety precaution out there to ensure injury is minimal on impact.

Take the retail sector. No one knows what the impact of Brexit on spending power will ultimately be, but there’s no doubt that the market has slowed of late for reasons that include Brexit - and landlords are responding accordingly.

Over the past year, we’ve seen Hammerson undertake an innovative tie-up with Appear Here and launch a new app, FindSimilar, in a bid to modernise its offer and maximise spend at its centres.

Last month, nine of the UK’s largest landlords announced they were offering start-ups free space in 100 UK shopping centres under a new scheme called Free Space+, launched by REVO and the British Independent Retailers’ Association to create a more dynamic tenant mix in centres.

Now, Intu is getting in on the act. Following the lead of Westfield with its Westfield Labs initiative, Intu has signed up seven start-ups to develop potentially game-changing retail technology as part of a new incubator programme it is calling Intu Accelerate.

Forget the ‘meh’ tech on display in the new Blade Runner film. Who needs giant holographic pink ladies with neon blue hair when you can have a real robot guide to assist you with your shopping, courtesy of BotsAndUs?

OK, some of you might plump for the former given she’s naked, but what about the community live-chat facility that allows customers browsing online stores to receive real-time advice from fellow shoppers and the app that eradicates the need to queue?

It is exciting stuff from what, dare I say it, has hitherto been regarded as a less-than-exciting company. And the good news is that retail landlords are bracing themselves for more than just Brexit by embracing tech; they are using tech to face up to a whole raft of challenges, which has to bode well for the future.

University Challenge

Talking of challenges, Brexit is, of course, the big one facing the student accommodation sector at the moment, the question being: how hard will student numbers be hit and what impact will this have on demand for housing?

The University Challenge posed by Brexit and other issues facing the sector will be debated at Property Week’s Student Accommodation Conference & Awards on 7 December at the NCC in Birmingham. Visit student.propertyweek.com to find out more and book your place.

Do you have a stake in the UK university sector? Make sure to book your place for Property Week’s Student Accommodation Conference & Awards now

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