Sander Halsema, Head of Retail Services, and his team found that a lot of retailers in Indonesia became very innovative during the pandemic by focusing on online sales and redesigning their stores to adapt to the situation and government regulations. He sees that retail markets are still very vibrant despite the COVID-19 situation.
How long have you been in the real estate industry and how did you get involved in this industry?
I have been in the real estate industry for about eight years now. Initially, I had no real estate background at all because I had a bachelor’s degree in hotel management and a master’s degree in marketing from Amsterdam. So, I wasn’t expecting myself to be involved in this industry. Then I got an offer as the Head of Marketing at Colliers Netherlands and that was how I got into the real estate business.
I worked at Colliers Netherlands for a little over two years before coming to Indonesia, where I have been working for more than five years. From a marketing and business development role, I slowly moved into a commercial role, specifically in the retail sector.
What is the biggest challenge that you have faced while working as the Head of Colliers Retail?
I found that there are actually two big challenges in the retail market in Indonesia. The first challenge is that if you look at the retailers themselves, or we usually call them tenants, obviously we try to help them expand their business in Indonesia whether it’s in a shopping mall or stand-alone. Most retailers have their own business development in-house, so they have people finding new expansion locations for them. So, sometimes I feel like their in-house expansion team considers us as their competitors who might threaten their jobs. While actually, we are not.
That was why for us it’s really important to create added value, and we did it multiple ways. One of the ways is to come up with new products and services that they might not have internally. One example is Locator Logic, which is a geography analysis company we use to have demographic and traffic data to help retailers determine where they should open up a new store based on their target market. We also have a lot of in-house data, such as rents and traffic in certain places, such as in shopping malls, stand-alone areas, etc. I think we have a lot of data and knowledge that will help retailers to expand. So, I wouldn’t say that we are a threat for their expansion team, but we could even collaborate with them instead.
The second challenge, from the owners’ side, if you look at the large malls in Indonesia, is they also have a leasing team that helps to lease out the units in malls. Our challenge is that not all of them welcome consultants to help bring retailers to their malls. In our case, Colliers has many contacts with international retailers that they might not have and would probably be helpful to them.
What is the most memorable experience your team faced during this pandemic?
Our team has been experiencing some interesting dynamics between building owners and tenants during this pandemic.
From a building owner’s perspective, obviously it’s important for them to maintain their tenants so people will come to the mall or the stand-alone building. But obviously from the retailer’s perspective, since the pandemic has lasted for so long, they have run out of cash reserves. So we have been involved in some renegotiations between landlords and retailers. We have found that the building owners understand the difficulties retailers have, but they also have their own financial obligations to watch, such as banks and suppliers. It’s good to see that throughout most of the situation, there has been a solution that is acceptable to both parties – retailers and the owners. For me, that is remarkably interesting to see.
Another thing that I also find interesting in this pandemic is that a lot of retailers became very innovative during such time, by focusing on online sales and redesigning their stores, so that they can easily work with online deliveries. Some also came up with new products that they brought to the market because they saw changes in demand through online sales. It’s good to see that retail markets are still very vibrant.
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