By Richard Pickering, Head of Futures Strategy
The Italian Job An element of normality returned to European politics last year, with Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders both losing out to centrist opponents. There were things that were fairly predictable about the recent Italian elections: firstly, that they were going to happen (there have been 65 Italian governments since WW2, so frequency of choice is expected), secondly, that the process was likely to end in a coalition government (however, we await the permutation) and thirdly that immigration would take top billing (Italy receives over 85% of the EU’s illegal migrants). The rest wasn’t in the script, as the Italians (and particularly the young Italians) firmly rejected established parties in favour of the populist 5-Star Movement, and the regional right-wing Lega Nord. What does this mean for Brexit? With no leader yet in post it’s difficult to say, but both 5-Star and Lega are committed Eurosceptics; ‘The EU cancels and destroys’ said Lega Nord chief Salvini, whereas 5-Star have said that they want Italy to leave the Euro, (EU exit odds also now 2/1). At the least this might deflect the EU’s gaze at a point where the Brexit negotiations need focus.
Autonomous vehicles Self driving cars feature high on any list of technology likely to change our cities. As a consequence there’s a lot of noise and axioms about the potential, with little assessment of the detail. Wrapped up in this are, I think, some dangerous conflations around autonomous cars vs shared cars, and some heroic assumptions around adoption timeframes that have led some to question whether they still need to build any car parking at all; (you do BTW). This week my colleague Kat Hanna has released a report shedding light on these impacts. The big takeaways are rethinking how we conceptualise distance, the likely path between zero and full adoption and the mechanisms by which one can futureproof development to take account of this trend. The report provides predictions and recommendations for CRE players around these and other subjects. You can download your copy here.
Making waves When is a shopping centre not a shopping centre? When it’s a water park? Even on the Costa del Sol, where intu is combining a shopping centre with a water park, this feels like pushing the frontiers. However, confounding expectations further, a new Citywave concept has this week found its way into the interior of a new shopping mall in Osnabrück. Baked into the mall design the wave machine creates ‘stationary waves’ allowing customers to try out surfing equipment for real in-store. The mall uses sports as a point of competitive differentiation, marketing its ‘Sportshaus’ concept alongside fashion and F&B. The wave machine delivers the experience which cements this reputation. As differentiation becomes more important, it is no longer sufficient to say that you offer an ‘experience’. Customers rightly demand to know what that experience is that sets your asset apart from the competition. This might lead to centres with narrower tenant mixes, anchored by showcase experiences which augment the tenant strategy rather than offer generic excitement.
To infinity and beyond It has been suggested that ‘the internet’ should join ‘shelter’ and ‘water’ at the bottom of Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, such is its importance to modern society. Therefore, as we look to the stars to find our next home, we now need to do more than terraforming and securing a water supply. Thankfully, Vodafone and Nokia are going where no telecoms companies have gone before, making our moon ‘more homely’ by installing the first lunar 4G network. This will come as good news to NASA (first lunar outpost targeted by 2023) and Elon Musk (who is aiming to make lunar travel a viable business). If you can afford the astronomic cost of a trip to the moon (some can), then you can avail yourself of more down to earth land prices ($99 for 5 acres). As yet there are no details on what the data roaming charges will look like.