There are numerous successful destinations where strong placebrands have only recently been developed to enhance something that has been there forever. One example is the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland – the world’s longest continuous tourism driving route at 2,500km – established through a comprehensive destination brand and marketing strategy developed by Allan for Failte Ireland, the Irish tourism development agency.
In that case, are there any particular strengths that could be marketed to build up the identity of The Shoreline?
As consultants, this is one of the key issues that we will focus on in one of the next phases of our brief. With much of urban Malta densely developed, SmartCity offers The Shoreline an excellent physical platform to create something really special, in terms of the retail as well as the residential proposals. From a retail perspective, The Shoreline offers residents in the south of the island facilities that to date have not been available without travelling to the north into Sliema. Most of all the strengths that will form a key part of the brand identity for The Shoreline will be the diverse and unique consumer brands that it will be attracting.
How do you intend to add value to the development through branding?
As noted above, branding, done well, reduces development risk and boosts profitability through faster and higher rates of occupancy, visitation and spend by people. Branding is absolutely critical to any destination; particularly a retail destination. Oxford Street (where we have advised), Regent Street, Manhattan’s 5th Avenue or Avenue des Champs Elysée in Paris, all invest heavily in the management and development of their brand on an ongoing basis.
What are the challenges for The Shoreline shopping mall?
It would be unfair to imply that The Shoreline faces any greater challenge than any other retail development currently proposed in Malta. Over the years, we have seen a range of new retail proposals come forward; some have gone ahead, while others have dropped from sight without even a whimper. We are well aware of the sort of challenges that can be faced: The Point presented a number as did other schemes such as Pama.
Possibly the greatest challenge that will be faced is the sheer number of retail schemes and the quantum of space that could be delivered by current retail development proposals in Malta. The Shoreline has the potential to transcend all of these, partly because it is to be developed on the least constrained of all the sites being brought forward, and partly also because the location at SmartCity presents something of a blank canvas on which can be “painted” a distinctive and compelling image of a great place to live, work and visit. In this way, a perceived disadvantage of location can be turned around into being its greatest advantage. A key challenge will be to attract customers to The Shoreline. We hope to achieve this with a unique range of retail occupiers and by creating Malta’s first Experience Retail Destination.
But The Shoreline shopping mall is not in Valletta, Sliema or in one of the major retailing localities. How do you intend to attract the right type of users?
Looking at retail development in the UK, it is interesting to observe that the biggest and most successful regional shopping centres have been built, not in town centres, but in remote locations, quarries and industrial estates. See Meadowhall, Cribbs Causeway, Metro Centre, Lakeside and Bluewater (which is in an old quarry and only given consent because it was below ground and out of sight).
The fact that The Shoreline is not Valletta or Sliema or St Julian’s should prove to be an advantage rather than an impediment. In creating a unique destination to sit at the heart of SmartCity, around which will be an exciting mix of employment, education and technical establishments, supported by residential apartments, we will be able to attract the most diverse range of both retailers and customers. It will help make SmartCity become Malta’s only true mixed-use destination development.
So this should increase a brand desire to be at The Shoreline? … and the projected developments in the coming few years?
Correct. SmartCity will be Malta’s only true mixed use destination development and The Shoreline will sit at its heart. It will be the “town square” for SmartCity where residents, workers, students, Maltese and tourists congregate. We often refer to the key ingredients that define a destination as being the ability to live, work, shop and play. Only SmartCity and The Shoreline will offer this in Malta.
The aim is to create a rich mix of quality retail, leisure and food operators, many of which we believe will be new to Malta. Many will come under their own steam; others will seek to partner with a Maltese operator. But above all, they will respond to the confidence they will feel about the brand for The Shoreline which the consultant team will engender and will respond to the unique combination of global and local market knowledge, coupled with our ability to broker new relationships between the leading global brand owners and local partners.
We aim to create a retail experience where the “dwell factor” exceeds anywhere else in Malta by making available to residents and visitors alike the ability to combine their shopping needs with their relaxation and recreational aspirations, and this is what we define as Experience Retail. Thus, we seek to make The Shoreline the first Experience Retail destination in Malta where aspirational brands will be determined to be represented alongside household names, where people can find pleasure in visiting, not occasionally, but every week, where people of all age groups and backgrounds can relax and be entertained – for breakfast, lunch and dinner.