Hammerson & The Un-Management of Innovation

Written by Mark Bourgeois, Managing Director, Hammerson & Curated by Holtby Turner

As an owner, manager and developer of retail destinations in Europe, Hammerson is a diverse place to work, with talent spanning retail, technology, design and product marketing.

In itself, this encourages the idea sharing and internal collaboration that fuels innovation. Add to that a portfolio which includes 23 prime shopping centres in the UK, Ireland and France, 18 retail parks in the UK and 19 outlets across Europe, and it’s easy to envisage the sheer scope that innovating at Hammerson encompasses.

Implementing an innovation strategy at scale is led by Managing Director, Mark Bourgeois. Holtby Turner Executive Search spoke to Mark and asked him to share the journey he’s had in creating a culture of innovation at Hammerson.

On the Thinking Behind Innovation

“Retail is an incredibly fast-paced industry and our teams are always looking for ways to innovate across our assets and developments. Real estate is no longer just about bricks and mortar; landlords must incorporate`digital technology and innovative design across the portfolio and that is where the strength of our expertise and insight comes into play. Our strong relationships with contractors and retailers enable us to work seamlessly to implement innovation across our shopping destinations.”

“In 2015, we successfully launched our Plus app across our European portfolio of shopping centres. Plus allows shoppers to receive personalised offers tailored to their preferences, access maps and centre information at the touch of a button. This is something we have now taken further with the FindSimilar function, which we successfully trialled at Brent Cross earlier this year [in 2017]. FindSimilar was developed in conjunction with image recognition experts, Cortexia; it allows users to upload an image and search to find the same, or similar, items and products in stores throughout the relevant centre. With the popularity of platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, we built upon the appeal of images and visuals into an intuitive and convenient function.

Who Drives & Delivers Innovation at Hammerson?

“We have a dedicated Product Innovation team that works closely with our asset, leasing and development teams to drive innovation across the portfolio. Colleagues based in our centres are also fundamental to the process, with the added benefit of having their feet on the ground in a retail environment.

Implementing innovation in some of our older assets can be more challenging. Brent Cross, for example, turned 41 this year, and was not built with the digital world in mind. However, we are working to refresh and improve the centre through major redevelopment plans to ensure that it is digitally capable and ready for another 40 years.”

Vision. Conviction. Flexibility.

“As leader of an innovative development or asset repositioning, I’d always start with a strong vision. Having set out that vision, you should be prepared to flex in response to the bright ideas and foster the necessary levels of collaboration to generate the best thinking.

Joining Hammerson this year, I’m absolutely committed to the vision of creating desirability for our consumers, brands, commercial partners and communities. My conviction and belief that everything we do should contribute to that vision will, I hope, inspire my colleagues to reach new levels of success.”

How Hammerson Actively Nurtures a Culture Of Innovation

“We have a very open culture at Hammerson. Our head office in Kings Place follows agile working principles, which encourage collaboration and feedback between departments and individuals. Colleagues are encouraged to share ideas across the business and learn from others.”

What is Agile?

“Simply put, agile is a word associated with software development. Agile project management focuses on continuous improvement, scope flexibility, team input, and delivering quality products. These methodologies all focus on people, communications, the product, and flexibility through a series of 12 steps that rapidly move through the stages of idea to delivery.”

Assessing Risk and Dealing With Failure

“We have a high level of insight into the market and our shoppers and we use this data and feedback to guide our projects. Our most recent technology innovation, FindSimilar, was trialled at Brent Cross with people on the ground speaking directly to shoppers to gather representative feedback. This kind of trial ensures that when we roll an initiative out across the portfolio, it is likely to be successful.”

Innovating to Survive

“Innovation, in any form, is fundamental to the future retail property industry. The world around us is changing at a rapid pace and the way in which people choose to spend their time and money is evolving with it. Digital technology in particular, has moved incredibly quickly, and both landlords and retailers need to be investing in this, planning for the next big innovation and future-proofing their businesses. Whether it’s drones, driverless cars or queue-less shopping, the industry needs to be ready for the future or risk being left behind.”

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