Vacant retail premises and local traders going out of business: unfortunately, many cities have to deal with these challenges. How can these commercial centres be transformed into vibrant shopping areas? Can events contribute to this? Researcher Eline Frison sees a perspective by looking at megatrends.
Megatrends are the passion and expertise of change psychologist Herman Konings. On October 6th, 2022, Konings gave an Event Master Class at the city campus of KdG University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Antwerp, at the request of the centre of expertise Public Impact. Megatrends, according to this trend watcher, bring about major social changes that affect our future. They give us a fascinating glimpse of the near future. And hugely important: in times of crisis, and certainly after a crisis, they still accelerate.
We cannot avoid megatrends. Certainly not our cities and municipalities that put vibrant shopping areas at the front of the agenda. Understanding social trends can contribute to an innovative and, above all, future-proof trade and events policy, tailored to what the future consumer, visitor and resident needs. This, of course, leaves the question which megatrends a local authority should then focus on. In other words, which trends are most relevant for event policy and can stimulate local shopping areas the most? Konings discussed some key trends for vibrant shopping areas and events.
60 is the new 30
Ageing is a fact of life. Yet today's baby boomer generation wants to be anything but grey. Baby boomers are just very colourful and vital in life. They want to fill in their time in an enjoyable way. Moreover, they have a lot of wealth to spend and a lot of time to fill in. The current generation of people in their fifties and sixties are people who want to die young, but as late as possible. Konings recommends recognising this group in that way too: "Involve those in their fifties and sixties, because they are very present. Do not consider them as fifty- or sixty-year-old, because then they are not going to feel addressed. Consider them as thirty-somethings and target your offer and communication to this generation if you want to reach them too."
Phygital is the new digital
The enormous speed at which society has been digitising in recent years seems obvious. Although the corona crisis has accelerated this trend and people have a clear need for connectivity. Nowadays, they mainly want a nice balance between offline and online, between physical and digital. According to Konings, we should therefore focus on phygital: "If we want to connect the different generations, we need to connect the digital with the analogue. Analogue stimuli are and remain important, also for the digital generation. But the digital can certainly add value, also for vibrant shopping areas and events. Combine digital elements with your physical event and merge it with the online world, the metaverse. A physical event that integrates the right digital components can create more vibrancy and experience."
Sustainability and LATTE values
Sustainability has received a huge boost from the corona and energy crises. Increasing resource scarcity and climate change, among other things, are causing us to increasingly go for sustainable. As a result, LATTE values are gaining significant importance. "LATTE stands for local, authentic, traceable, trustworthiness and ethical," explains Konings. Today's consumers attach increasing importance to local. Authenticity, traceability and trustworthiness of products and services are at least as important. Ethical considerations are also increasingly weighing into shoppers' and event visitors' decisions. Konings recommends using a lot of greenery in interior design. "You have to be able to offer visitors oxygen, or at least the symbolism of oxygen. Use plants, moss or algae. Like a park with urban references, and not the other way around."
Research on supply and demand
Looking to the future, our centre of expertise also wants to help think about our shopping areas of today and tomorrow. And about what role events can play in them. Specifically, we want to examine the supply and demand of events at shopping areas. The questions we are asking are: How can events make the city more vibrant and liveable for citizens and traders? How can events have a positive economic impact on retail and vacancy rates? To what extent does local commerce effectively serve residents and vice versa? As researchers, we focus strongly on developing knowledge and expertise on events and entrepreneurship in the city. We bring stakeholders and experts together and value knowledge sharing, also during the many trainings at our Event Academy.