The Nordic Council of Shopping Centers (NCSC) has selected the Forum shopping centre as the Best Shopping Center 2017 in the Nordic countries, making it the first Finnish shopping centre to win the award.
The recipient of the highly regarded Nordic Award given out by the Nordic Council of Shopping Centers (NCSC) was announced in Stockholm on 10 May. Vying for the Nordic Award were the new and renovated shopping centres previously selected by NCSC as the best shopping centres in each country. This was the ninth time the award was given out and the first time it was won by a Finnish shopping centre.
The four-person jury praised the Forum brand, which is the result of long-term development and has helped Forum maintain and further improve its strong market position in spite of the difficult market climate. The jury also pointed to the well-defined strategy behind the multi-year renovation and development project that was completed in late 2015.
“The renewal of the shopping centre was impressively executed, achieving a high-quality result below the budgeted cost and without disrupting the shopping centre’s day-to-day operations. Forum is now even better equipped to meet future challenges after simultaneously cultivating its traditions and architecture while also expanding and developing its offering. The shopping centre also does admirable work in the area of social responsibility by promoting youth employment,” the jury said.
Still capable of renewal at 65 years of age
Originally opened to mark the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Finland’s first shopping centre has undergone a number of renewal projects through the decades. It opened its doors in largely its current form in 1985, but the amount of retail space within its walls has since increased from 16,000 to nearly 40,000 square metres.
Shopping Centre Manager Lars Eklundh believes the successful renewal project was the main reason for the award.
“Our renewal project has proved to be a commercial success, and it has also been very well received by customers. We were able to overcome the technical challenges without disrupting day-to-day trade, and the costs were only EUR 50 million instead of the budgeted EUR 57 million,” Eklundh says.
“Today, our location is the best in the city, and that is also the result of our hard work. Back in 1985, Kaisaniemenkatu was still considered Helsinki’s trendiest street, but the commercial heart of the city has gradually shifted in our direction since then.”
Youth fashion has traditionally been Forum’s strong suit, and its largest customer group consists of fashion-conscious young women.
“A strong tradition is not enough for them. Instead, the shopping centre must remain vibrant and evolve with the times, always feeling fresh and new to the consumer. In our recent renewal, we enhanced our offering in the areas of children’s clothing, cafés and restaurants,” Eklundh explains.
“Another significant change is the arrival of the 3,000 m2 Gigantti store, which made electronics our fourth cornerstone in addition to fashion, restaurants, and sports and leisure. It was the first time in Northern Europe that such a high-volume retail unit was opened in a city’s central business district.”
Growth against the odds
Forum has achieved 25 per cent sales growth over the past three years, a period in which retail sales growth has otherwise been non-existent.
“In 2016, we had 14.7 million customers and total sales of EUR 217.3 million. We ranked seventh among Finnish shopping centres in terms of sales and fourth in terms of customer volume, even though we are only the 12th largest in terms of retail space. Our sales per square metre figure is among the highest in the country.”
Sponda acquired the Forum shopping centre from Forum Fastighets Kb in February 2016 as part of a property purchase whose value exceeded half a billion euros. With four shopping centres and total leasable space of 202,000 square metres, Sponda is Finland’s second-largest owner of shopping centres today.
In addition to Forum, Sponda owns the Citycenter shopping centre in Helsinki’s central business district, the Elo shopping centre in Ylöjärvi and the Zeppelin shopping centre in Kempele.
The acquisition of Forum in 2016 significantly increased the share of shopping centre properties in Sponda’s property portfolio. It also saw Sponda strengthen its shopping centre expertise, which has allowed it to quickly emerge as a significant player in the industry. The Ratina shopping centre, which will be completed in Tampere’s central business district with 150 shops in spring 2018, will be the city’s largest.