ECE Retail Newsletter, February 2018

"Making better use of our data"

Steffen Eric Friedlein, Managing Director Leasing since January 1, on new technologies and adventures in the African bush

In view of the current leasing market, how optimistic or pessimistic were you feeling when you started in your new role?

With all due respect for the challenges faced by the retail sector: I do not see much point in pessimism. Naturally, there is some intensive discussion about conditions, since some of our partners also need to adapt to changed market conditions – but that was also the case from time to time in the past. The important thing is to work together with our tenants to develop viable concepts for the future and to meet the changing demands of our customers. Direct communication and joint use of new technologies, such as our online sales reporting portal, which enables quick access to sales and footfall data, will be a good basis for this. Another example is “Digital Mail”, which is currently being tested in Alstertal-Einkaufszentrum. For our customers, this combines the benefits of bricks-and-mortar retail located in the immediate vicinity and online shopping.

What will be your initial priorities in your new role?

I was fortunate enough to have been left a very successful leasing division from my predecessor, Klaus Striebich. So there is certainly no need for a complete change of tack. However, we would do well to respond quickly and flexibly to new developments. So, as of January 1, we have established the position of Leasing Innovation Manager in order to search specifically for new concepts, even outside classic retail industries. We also want to speed up and enhance the availability and use of data.

Turning briefly to your life history: You come from Stuttgart, were Head of Leasing at Kriegbaum Group in Böblingen and then came to work as Leasing Manager at ECE in 1999. What were your reasons for switching jobs back then?

My then employer, a family owned business had just been taken over by a large corporate group and this naturally led to changes in the company culture and business policy. Hence, I was very interested in the opportunity given to me by Klaus Striebich, who I had already known for ten years, and inspired the way he approached me at the time. A switch to working for a shopping-center market leader therefore struck me as being a logical step at that point.  And I can honestly say that I have never looked back.

Is there anything about you that is typically Swabian?

Hm, perhaps my partiality to a delicious dry-aged roasted joint with Spätzle (homemade noodles). At weekends, if I visit the post office or the butcher in our small Black Forest community, I definitely lapse back into the Swabian dialect.

What characterizes your leadership or negotiation style?

I always try to stick to the facts and develop an understanding  of the other party. This helps in most situations, whereas emotions rarely elicit helpful responses.

Do you shop online yourself sometimes?

Yes, I plead guilty as charged. As I am fairly average in terms of my size and also very brand loyal, it is very easy for me to order suits, shirts and similar items online as well sometimes. But I do not want to talk about my experience of shopping for such things. When it comes to products that require more detailed advice, when seeking inspiration, or if I want to try out something new, I always prefer bricks and mortar retail.

What is ECE doing, to prepare your shopping center to deal with the increasing online competition?

Our center aims always to be completely in step with the times. This begins with design and organization – as part of the “At Your Service” project, ECE is investing hugely in improving the quality of our customers’ visits and the service they receive – and does not by any means end with “Digital Mall”, which I mentioned earlier. Our footfall, which continues to remain stable, demonstrates that we are on the right track. I am fully convinced that both forms of retail will have their place in the future and they will no longer be so clearly demarcated.

Let me close by asking you a personal question: Where do you travel to when you need a change of scene?

My wife and I share a passion when we travel: We love nature and animals and we both like to go a bit on the wild side, too. So we both prefer to venture off on our own into the African bush in an SUV, camping properly with a roof tent, a campfire and away from civilization.  This means we can really switch off, since we suddenly have completely different concerns, such as whether we have enough fuel and water.