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In memory of Juan Thomas

Madrid, 18th November 2020

I had had the opportunity to join the La Vaguada shopping center project some time before, through engineering, the licensing process and the subsequent development of the first execution projects, when the promoter company announced, in March 1981, the signing, to take over from the French managers who had been in charge of the project until then, of a young Spanish coach, Juan Thomas de Antonio. The objective of Spanishizing the project finally took face and eyes.

In a complicated political context, with doubts from the new municipal administration about the future of the center, Juan knew how to negotiate, hand in hand with the creative contribution of César Manrique, the definitive start of construction. He demonstrated talent and expertise, successfully navigating a very novel rental marketing process, and effectively piloting, with risky deadlines and tight budgets, his full development to reach the opening in October 1983. An extraordinary personal and professional experience for those who we were lucky to be there.

My admiration for his figure acquired another superior dimension when, once he had assumed the role and risk of a promoter, we saw him in the following years apply experience and relationships in his first steps, in Plaza de Andalucía, a clone of Vaguada on a reduced scale, and later in Parque Sur, repeating the Alcampo Galerías duo, to which he added a mini amusement park.

I remember him in those years of growth and consolidation of the Spanish Association of Shopping Centers, forging a visionary and unconventional personal profile, somewhat removed from the associative circuits. But knowing how to tenaciously build a very brilliant career that would lead him, after Parque Sur, to develop Bahía Sur, Parque Corredor, or Parque Astur. Centers in which he was able to very well balance innovative contributions in configuration and design with a respectful follow-up of the most canonical commercial schemes.

It was in 1996 when he accepted my invitation to be part of the Awards Jury of the AECC Congress held in Barcelona, with the admired José Antonio Arenas, José Ángel Rodrigo, Ramón Reñón and Carmen Almagro. The meetings and visits to candidates that we did in those weeks revealed to us, I think all of us, a friendly, sensible, and I would say kind, profile in the close and calm professional analysis of the projects of other promoters.

I like to remember Juan in this triple facet. That of an exciting and motivating orchestra director who in La Vaguada managed to extract the best of the teams that surround him. That of a determined businessman, who has a vision, a desire to promote, and who, acting accordingly, decides to assume all the risks that he entails. And, finally, that of a reflective man, with a close profile and thorough knowledge, which he showed us in those days of Jury.

I no longer had the opportunity to see him later, except on the occasion of the anniversaries of La Vaguada, where he continued to elicit respect and admiration from some human teams, the 80’s of the 80’s, that he had known so well to lead. And, already in his last months, when, immersed in physical suffering and ailments of all kinds, he knew how to live with an admirable resignation and positive spirit, which we have today as a life lesson for those of us who were fortunate to treat him.

Rest in peace

Best shopping center in years?

Madrid, 28th September 2019

I come from the last opening of the shopping center sector in Spain. And frankly, it is inevitable to express a great feeling of satisfaction. Not the one that can inspire you to check once again the great professionalism of Lar España and its teams, including L35 at the head of architecture, and Gentalia at the command of marketing and management.

It is something else, it is the satisfaction of thinking that a sector like ours, affected by winds that we would not like to feel, has given yesterday, will give tomorrow, with the opening of its doors to the public, a breath of fresh air, innovation and good judgment with Lagoh.

Its basic concept I think is impeccable. Two floors, wide longitudinal, long and high ground, lateral lighting in a very hot country, impeccable anchors, Primark (we will have one day to evaluate how much this chain is contributing to the industry by accepting lateral positions such as the old department stores) in one, and the Mercadona MediaMarkt couple (what would the growth of our sector be without these two protagonists?) in the other.

And, what I think is most distinctive and that will give it a definitive character, the wide and well-acclimated ride that develops laterally on a long surface of water that runs longitudinally from one end to the other. And that plays the role of a second complete mall of restoration, terraces and entertainment, parallel to the main one, and, this yes, on a single level. And leaving the SE30 and the Centennial Bridge very visible on the other side of the lake, to which it is exposed without ambiguity and with its best facade. That last night he released his best image, duplicating in the sheet of water his varied facade of lights and movement.

I have almost no doubt that what we saw last night being officially inaugurated by all possible Administrations (does anyone remember an inauguration with so much politics?) Is going to become a success. The question that remains for me tonight, and to which we will have to answer in the coming weeks, after giving it a couple more laps, is: Have we attended the opening of the best Spanish shopping center in recent years last night?

My temptation, which I believe is founded today, is to think that it will surely be.


The new storage and distribution capillary networks

Madrid, 2nd July 2019

The Last Mile is becoming, increasingly, the key battlefield in the supply chain of electronic commerce, and it is taken for granted that the companies acting in this trade, whether they are “Pure Players” or traditional Through the omnichannel model, they will have to develop specific strategies in this area to compete effectively in this field. In the same way, the logistics operating companies, of which those are or might be customers, should review, are already reviewing, in fact, their performance assumptions, and, among others, their real estate storage and distribution supports.

Both online merchants and / or distributors, as well as companies in the logistics and transport sector, which already face the challenge of adopting new approaches and increasingly evolved technologies to compete, also face the need to rethink the physical distribution, and, therefore, its network of warehouses and distribution routes.

The increasing demand for speed and convenience of the target clients in the city, as well as increasingly large and complex urban areas, in particular single-family housing developments or housing at height but low density, are forcing some and others to review their storage and distribution networks, replacing centralized networks with small-scale local distribution infrastructures, in which the demand for increasing capillarity that ensures the objective of approaching the final recipient is increasing.

What form and what characteristics this capillary network should take in real estate terms is one of the challenges that one and the other must already be considering. Without prejudice to the role they will develop, and that they are already developing localized deliveries, such as mailboxes at gas stations, stations, and transport exchangers, or the commercial premises themselves, and, by extension, and on a larger scale, shopping centers.

Control of inflows in commercial streets: they will not take long

Cannes, Mapic, 16th November 2017

I commented in a previous blog the time of trade flourishing in the center of the city. And the peremptory need that the main commercial axes of the city have to follow many of the techniques and learn from the experiences lived and developed by the mall. To prolong in an effective way, little by little and in an unstoppable way, the shopping center model towards the public spaces of the urban center of the city

Surprising in this context that does not arise from any of the parties involved, merchants or Administration, an initiative that would be simple to introduce and that would allow, as in fact it has always done in shopping centers, to have useful data of inflows for management Common: The flow counters.

To those who know of the tremendous utility of these devices, and their relative low installation and maintenance costs, we find it difficult to understand that they have not become widespread today. The latest technologies have eliminated some of the disadvantages that the first devices could have for use in open spaces. And the importance of good data management has not stopped growing for all types of businesses

I want to think that the fidelity of their measurements, and the usefulness they provide to understand cycles and evaluate campaigns should encourage each other to implant, sooner or later, these systems in successful shopping streets. The existence in the Spanish market of different suppliers of systems and mechanisms of diverse type expand the offer, stimulate competition, and improve the service they offer. The opportunity is therefore decidedly here and now.

Compulsed to follow the mall model

Madrid, 11th October 2017

We live a time of flourishing trade in the center of the city. Of an undisputed and permanent improvement that is experiencing the attractiveness of the traditional shopping street, the “high street”, for, at the same time, retail operators on the one hand and for consumers on the other. In Spain and everywhere It is truly a phenomenon of recovery of the city center, worldwide.

Driven by the determination with which the large operators of retail are looking for stores in the commercial streets of the center and with the recovery of the spirit of open and attractive streets that have achieved many pedestrianizations and extension of sidewalks, returns to stand on the table a reality that, for many years now has been talking about: the possibility of making these commercial axes, at least the most successful, true shopping centers.

Although there has always been a collision with the harsh reality of a huge multiplicity of owners, the consequent lack of control over activities, and the difficulty of a truly effective common management, this possibility or, better, this opportunity, is more alive than never. Not perhaps, true, for all shopping streets, but at least for the most central, attractive and well connected.

For many years now, sometimes driven by the Administration and with a part of public funds, physical models of approximation, with attractive common spaces, have been applied to the moles of shopping centers: pedestrianization, furniture, signalling, areas of games, etc., have gone in this direction. And there have also been tests of a common management, with joint programs of animations and cooperative marketing operations. Live groups of merchants of these commercial axes have also achieved in some cases, a relative homogeneity in schedules, customer services, etc. All this has been setting up a determined approach to the mall model.

Commercial strength of the city center

Leeds, 15th October 2015

Sometime I have heard the expression that modern merchants and retailers want to be, over everything, in the downtown. And that if many of them open establishments in the suburbs of the big cities it is just only because they cannot do it inside, either by for not finding spaces adapted to its size, or by the prohibitive prices that sometimes they find

The reflection is relevant to the coincidence in time of the opening of the great shop Primark in Gran Vía of Madrid, and the award ceremony of the ICSC to Trinity Leeds, the shopping centre that Land Securities inaugurated in 2013. I feel very pleased by seeing in the city centres such strong commercial concentrations! Incorporating the most highly collection that the modern commercial sector can offer.

In Leeds’s downtown, sixth city in the ranking purchase in Great Britain, together to the Marks&Spencer, BHS, Next, TopShop, Primark de Trinity Leeds, line up in the same commercial pedestrian core the House of Fraser, Debenhams, Gap, Zara, H&M … Also with Harvey Nichols in the incredible shopping galleries of Vitoria Quarter, And with the arrival in 2016 of wished John Lewis in newly Victoria Gate who is promoting Hammerson.

How does one compete from the suburbs with these macro commercial concentrations? There is better way of invigorating and regenerating life in downtown downtown than with a commercial offer of this type?

Return of the cranes

Valdebebas, 1st September 2015

The leap of the statistics to the reality is one of the most difficult exercises to achieve, even putting determined interest to understand those across the observation on this one. The process of recovery of the Spanish economy this last time can easily validate in these months with the frequent appearance of news about business results in the business pages of the newspapers. Repeated growths sales benefits, ebitdas, … quarterly or annual, are again habitual for some time now. After many years with a lack of them.

But this observation is still often slightly distant from the reality that is seen. The immediate business perspective offers evident symptoms of recovery, and in our sector they are already many who are experiencing it. And not only in the investment domain, where the good news and the return of the activity already goes back to the whole 2014, but already also in the retail sales, the rents, the clearance, the delays in the collection, etc.

But I today like to keep with these photos that again show cranes leaning out in an almost challenging way, I would say, in the clean horizon autumnal of the Paus of Madrid. A tour through Valdebebas, through Vallecas, through Fuente del Fresno they show us cranes working and cranes being assembled. As swallows, they come to demonstrate us in a palpable way that something is changing indeed into the real Spanish economy in the last times.

Innovation of the Shopping Centre formula

Girardot, 28th may 2015

What more pleasing memories! What lucky times we have lived with the progressive development of the formula of the shopping centres in Spain in the 80s and 90s! ! What magic was radiating every new center that was coming to a medium-size size city!

Today I remember again with contained emotion these sensations esensations in the medium-size size cities in Colombia. I visited thel Unicentro in Girardot, a city of approximately 80.000 inhabitants to the south of Bogota, newly inaugurated by Pedro Gómez, probably the of most tradition promoter of the national scene. A big center, of 23.000 m2, well executed , with all the facilities and characteristics of the present centers. And with an interesting collection of many of the store chains that are obtaining national implantation in the country.

The Manager was explaining to myself as the neighbors of the municipality they were approaching with respect, in amazement, to the facilities of the centre. How they were experimenting, they were rising and going down the mechanical stairs that they had never seen, how they were appearing to the shop windows, how there were astonished by the materials, the cleanliness, the gardening, how they were showing almost religious respect for a new world full of unknown sensations,and that now, by the hand of the new shopping centre, ending up being at their disposal, more than never.

It has been always said that any real-estate promotion is the result of many years of work, of commitment, of taking risks on the part of a promoter. But the special of the shopping centre is to verify how, from the following day of the inauguration, the result of all this effort delivers to the population to whom is going to give service, and how they will make it immediately theirs, they are really going to get to feel it. And in what extent his commercial future success is going to precisely depend on this appropriation. What satisfaction to verify that the mechanism continues repeating itself in the new countries, in the new cities that are joining to the fórmula!

No long term future

London, 22nd April 2015

It is amazing for some time now to observe almost all the airports that you visit have incorporated this trend of subduing the passengers with duty-free shops interposed in a very disputable way with the passage of the passengers who go towards their boarding gates.

It has not been many years since I had the opportunity to take part in the design and configuration of the commercial areas of what was going to be new T4 in Barajas, and we always knew the important thing that the sales momentum is in these businesses.

But they were not yet times to allow anything else beyond a good frontal placement or a sufficient length of shop window in the most frequented circulation areas. But since then, we have seen how Aena in Spain, but systematically also the rest of the big companies of exploitation of airports, they have succumbed to the temptation and have decided to introduce directly to the whole flow of passengers coming from the security or passports controls inside the shops. Forcing sometimes, not only the burden of the interposed goods but forcing sometimes to long run across.

The last remodelings of the T4, but also Malaga, Palma and many different in Spain, the different terminal of Heathrow or Gatwick, the last amazing remodeling of Lisbon, Fiumicino, Munich or Frankfurt have been falling inexorably to the trend, and they all tempt the sale istanding in the way without any respect of all the users passengers.

I do not believe that this is a formula with long-term future We already know that the airports have discovered that the commercial income can and must overcome the strictly aeronautical ones. And this is not going to change. But it does not seem to be reasonable that it is at the current price. We will see progressively reorganize the duty-free areas to situations with good exhibition and easy access, but respecting clear areas of circulation and out of the commercial area in order that the passengers who do not wish it should not circulate along them.

After all this trend reminds me the one that we had in some moment in the shopping centres, where, for assuring good circulations and flows in front of increasing lengths of mall, we ended up by placing remote stairs and communication hearts, forcing unnecessarily the tours. Its following malfunction demonstrated that the confort an the satisfaction of the client should take priority over these excesses.

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