From the source: Victor Gaspar, Ipoh

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BIO: Victor Gaspar, Ipoh

Victor Gaspar has been the group general manager of Ipoh for 12 years. He oversees the specialist retail investment and management company’s major assets including The Galeries, QVB, Strand Arcade and Chifley.

COMPANY PROFILE: The Galeries, Sydney The Galeries is a lifestyle and cultural destination for fashion, art and dining in Sydney, featuring a diverse mix of boutiques and retailers in the heart of the city including Muji, Incu and Carhartt. The popular dining precinct includes Grill’d, Yayoi and Lotus and the recent addition of The Grounds of the City.

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Inside Retail Weekly: Tell me about what Galeries is doing this year in terms of celebrating Christmas.

VG: We tried to be a little bit different to what a traditional Christmas is – we didn’t do Christmas decorations or trees and we definitely didn’t do Satna. But if you walk around our centre, our ‘Sparked’ campaign ignites the senses evoking a true feeling of Christmas through an unconventional execution.

It’s experiential. We want to engage the customer, so he or she feels like they’re getting more than the traditional Christmas – it’s almost playful, we’re telling you to stop here and listen. There is a certain traditional element to it and they evoke those traditional memories, but in a modern way.

The Trails stimulate through sights, scents and sounds. In the laneway featuring Vans and Monster Threads, you will breathe in the beautiful scent of cinnamon under a wreath installation, in the laneway between Jimmy’s Recipe and The Arthouse Hotel the smell of peppermint pays homage to candy canes.

Walking under a wave of bells near Incu, you will discover sound spots where you can hear the ringing of bells and in another laneway, there is a canopy of lights which guide you into the centre and welcome you with the sounds of twinkling stars.

We have a digital gift guide in the centre too, as we know our customer is quite tech-savvy and seeks an experience. It’s got an interactive screen, you can put in the details of who you’re buying for, like their psychographic, a price range and whether they’re male or female and it’ll suggest a selection of gifts. Sometimes it’s difficult to buy for people, so you want a push and a selection of ideas. It talks to our customer, because they’re not as interested in print as they are in the tech side.

TheGaleries_ShoppingcentreWe also have a unique gift with purchase this Christmas within ‘The Gift Workshop’ where customers can redeem three experiences in-centre when they spend over $150. This includes complimentary gift wrapping with designs by artist Edwina Buckley, a tasty treat from the Top Juice Taste Bar, and the chance to win a major or minor prize on The Santa Claw Skill Tester where everyone’s a winner. Major prizes have been sponsored by the likes of Incu, Books Kinokuniya, Spring Court, Nudie Jeans, Lotus and more, all worth over $100

IRW: How would you describe the customer base at Galeries?

VG: Our customer here is very broad and we’ve stopped applying a specific age to them. They’re experience-seekers, they see themselves as very individual and want brands they can relate to and reflect upon. You’ll find that we have both a very young cashed-up customer and a more mature customer, both buying the same product, because it reflects who they are and what brands signal their sense of self. Muji appeals to the homemakers, Incu appeals to the trend watchers, Books Kinokuniya appeals to all ages, while the food offering – from the food court (Chat Thai, Fishbowl, Hotto Motto) to the dining precinct (Lotus, Jimmy’s Recipe, Yayoi) – caters to all ages and price ranges, whether customers are after a quick bite, or a satisfying spread.

I like to say we’re a lifestyle centre. The Galeries is a place where you can meet friends, explore and be entertained. Anchors including Books Kinokuniya and Muji provide a unique experience to Sydney and combined with JB Hi-Fi, a wide range of F&B choices and other unique offers you can discover, relax and enjoy without feeling rushed.

IRW: How would you describe your tenancy mix?

VG: If you look at our specialty stores, 60 per cent is food and beverage, which attracts a lot of people because we have such a broad range. You can buy a very cheap, quick meal in the food court, grab a coffee at a number of different cafes including Black Star Pastry on Level 2, or go to The Grounds or Lotus and enjoy dinner or a late dessert.

Then from there, we build on it and ask, what kind of retailers fit that experiential positioning for us and who are those retailers who are at the top of their game in that area? They’re innovative, engage with customers on a number of different levels, they’re constantly adapting. If you look at Nudie Jeans, as a denim seller, you can buy lengths and sizes, you can get your jeans repaired there, they have a fantastic social media presence.

We also have some traditional retailers who continue to innovate their product and service offerings. I think the consumer likes to have a bit of comfort and brands that they understand and know, so you’ll find those interspersed throughout – JB Hi-Fi, The Body Shop – they’re brands people are familiar with and this attracts new customers as well.

IRW: Galeries is located in a competitive area of the Sydney CBD – QVB is across the road, Pitt Street Mall is behind you and Central Park Mall and Broadway are around a 15 minute walk away. What makes Galeries different?

VG: The layout of the centre is unique and inviting, we are not afraid of healthy competition. I think if you spoke to anyone in the industry, they’d tell you the centre design was flawed, which created challenges. But if you look at it and say, ‘it’s not your typical centre, what can we do with it? How do we address those challenges?’, that is where you find your answer.  

The food offer speaks to that as well amd having those big destination lifestyle stores like Kinokuniya and Muji, where you can just wander and not necessarily buy anything. It’s an hour of entertainment, just walking in and exploring. You can spend time in Galeries without aimlessly wandering through fashion stores. Then the food offer allows for people to spend time here – it’s a meeting, gathering place, it’s social with large lines always forming outside Yayoi, Ichiban and Jimmy’s Recipe. All our marketing campaigns talk to that social aspect as well.

It has been challenging and it’s taken us a long time to get to this stage. The refurbishment we completed 18 months ago allowed us to resolve some issues with the design here, it’s allowed us to strengthen this end of the centre and that brought the whole master plan together.

To get to the upper levels, there were two sets of escalators but hidden in the corners of the centre. To move people around up to retail, you need good vertical transport. We had Freedom Furniture at the top at the time, so when their lease expired, it gave us an opportunity to look at that space. We introduced escalators in the middle of the centre, so it gave people a visual clue as to how to get upstairs.

When you move people around, they want to know how to get in and how to get out. The old days of making it hard for people to get out have well and truly gone, so centralising these calculators opened the ability for us to do different things upstairs – we introduced Lotus, Grill’d, strengthened our food offer and we’ve gone from strength to strength over time.

IPOH_SHOPPING_CENTRES_THE_GALERIESIRW: Food and beverage has been seen by many shopping centres as being of high priority lately. Tell me about the offer at Galeries.

VG: Sixty per cent of our specialty shops are food and beverage, which would seem high to a lot of people, but due to the design of our centre and its location, it’s allowed us to grow that category.

We have a food court downstairs which isn’t traditional – it’s coming to seven or eight  years since we first refurbished that and it’s got a great offer and feel. It’s dark with different areas for people to sit – you can get your typical brands that people are familiar with like Oporto, but then we’ve got interesting brands that we’re continually introducing, like Hotto Motto which is Japan’s number one bento box food offer, and Fish Bowl Sashimi Bar, an Australian twist on the Hawaiian and Japanese Poke Bowl.

There are a number of cafes and then you have established brands like The Grounds. Lotus provides that more restaurant-based dining experience with function spaces and private dining rooms. You’ll often see industry leaders and politicians holding private meetings in there over lunch or dinner. Then we have Grill’d providing the fast food but quality burger experience.

I think from a food and beverage point of view, if you want to own that part of the market, you need to provide that breadth of choice for people. Our food offer satisfies all needs from a quality take away coffee to a late night supper.

IRW: What would you say were some of the highlights of the year for Galeries?

VG: It was definitely opening The Grounds. That was a project that took us some time and we’re ecstatic with the outcome. This was a key delivery for us in addition to the 7 new retailers which opened this year, Nudie Jeans, Miniso, T Totaler, Fish Bowl, Raffine Tokyo, Spring Court and Crumpler.  

The Grounds has really cemented us as a destination for food and beverage in the city. It’s a reflection of our positioning and what the centre stands for – people understand it and they want to be part of it.

IRW: What would you say are some of the challenges for retailers at the moment?

VG: Retail is challenging, it’s always changing and there’s new competition coming. Everyone’s been talking about Amazon, but retailers need to be smart and adapt and I think it will improve bricks-and-mortar retailing. You can see those people who are really working on their offer and have a multi-layered approach to retail are performing well.

For us, it’s about keeping the centre offer inspiring and a little unexpected. We play to the strengths of our retailer’s offers, we utilise technology in our centre campaigns because that’s where our customers like to engage with us and it’s about creating reasons to visit like our recent campaign which featured edible balloons – very unexpected.

IRW: I know a lot of shopping centres are trying to compete with online retailers by coming up with ways to lure customers into their centres. What are your thoughts on that?

VG: It’s about making sure that what you provide is attractive to customers, it’s not just about putting products on shelves and on racks – it’s more than that. People want to be entertained, they like to touch and feel, but they’re becoming more savvy and won’t put up with the ordinary. Retailers have to work harder than that, but if they do, they’ll succeed, because that’s what consumers want – quality, engagement and entertainment. They want change and to be continually be tested.

IRW: Galeries has done some great things with art in the past. Can you tell me about that?

VG: The research tells us that our customer is interested in art and for us, it’s two-fold. We worked with the College of Fine Arts for Vivid 2016 where students were able to showcase their talents on 22 fragments of screens suspended throughout the centre. We were Vivid Sydney’s first indoor precinct to host Vivid. We have also had competitions in the past where we’ve selected emerging street artists, to paint semi-permanent murals on our walls.

Most of our campaigns incorporate art, such as the augmented reality art hunt, where global artists showcased their works on large scale canvases hidden in plain sight and suspended throughout the centre. Each artwork came to life with sound and movement through an augmented reality mobile application.

For Lunar New Year we hosted a live cook-off between our food retailers and commissioned four emerging artists to create immersive pieces for each laneway.

Art is a major focus for the the Galeries and allows our customers to be a part of a new and exciting conversation, time after time.

IRW: I’ve noticed that Galeries always seems to have interesting pop-ups or campaigns taking place in the centre. Can you tell me about them?

VG: We always try to create ideas which inspire our customers and support our retail offer.

For spring, we had our ‘SpringVention’ campaign which was food-based and all about invention and experimentation. We approached Black Star Pastry to see if they could master the art of the edible balloon, derived from Alinea restaurant in Chicago. This campaign created reasons for people to visit and gave them something to taste and experience.

We also had a partnership with Kettle Brand’s popcorn for our Twisted Taste pop ups, where our retailers experimented the Kettle Popcorn flavours creating their own food inventions for customers to purchase. This was a good way for us to introduce Fishbowl, so they could test and trial and get familiar with the brand, then open a couple of weeks later – it was about supporting the retailers that we had. If you spent money in the centre, you also got to personalise your own tote bag with live typography artists too.

We’re very much aligned with creative experiences that relate what the customers’ needs are. We always want to evolve and we like to push the boundaries, especially from a marketing perspective’.

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