Real estate and retail: adapting to remain relevant after Covid-19

As a disruptive force quite unlike anything before it, the Covid-19 pandemic has been an incredible accelerator around the world. It has encouraged us to think differently and to come up with new solutions to strengthen our resilience. In this article, we look at some inspiring examples of adaptation and conversion in retail and real estate.

The good news is that we are already more resilient than we thought. Just look at how physical shops have developed online shops, how companies adopted widespread remote working within 48 hours and have reinvented their ways of working and how remote workers have adapted, gradually establishing routines for a better balance and sometimes even looking for more suitable housing.

5 brands and groups which have passed the resilience test

We’re not (really) going to go back to how things were before, be that in offices or anywhere else. Moreover, this concept of “how things were before” doesn’t really exist. The world is constantly changing; this year, it will just have done so at particular speed. In short, coronavirus is an incredible test of resilience and adaptability. This includes the retail and real estate sectors. Some brands have passed this test with flying colours. To inspire you, we’ve put together a few examples from different industries which have stood out over the last few months.

1. Delhaize: following the latest trends as closely as possible

In October, the Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize ended the expansion of its Fresh Atelier shops. The reason was quite simple: Covid-19 destroyed almost all demand for the “on-the-go” food available in its 10 branches. The brand’s existing shops will be converted to better meet current consumer needs. The company didn’t consider this to be a failure; instead, it simply took note of the situation and quickly adapted. This attitude is all the more remarkable given that this (very recent) concept was hailed when it was launched. It even won the prestigious Mercury award from Comeos for the most innovative shop concept in 2019. It takes a lot of flexibility to be able to (temporarily?) let go of a concept which is your pride and joy.

2. Cora Messancy (Galimmo): really going for it

If you have to implement security measures, you might as well be the best at it. That’s what Galimmo managed to do with the Covidsafe certification for the Cora Messancy shopping centre in Belgium. The shopping centre was awarded this certification following an audit, which certified the quality of the systems which have been implemented in terms of hygiene, health and the environment. The certification will be awarded to all of the group’s Belgian and French brands. This enhances their reputation as safe, responsible places in which to shop. Nowadays, that’s worth a lot.

3. Foodmaker: seizing the opportunities of a crisis

Although its Fresh Atelier shops are temporarily closed, the Foodmaker chain hasn’t let coronavirus hold it back. Surfing the fast-food wave, its fast-growing restaurants also had to close in March, with a 90% loss in production. To survive, in just two weeks and with reduced staff, Foodmaker became an online shop. The company now offers meals for companies and families, along with meal boxes. And it works. So much so that this year, Foodmaker won the legendary Mercury award. The jury wanted to reward a company which has adapted to coronavirus in an innovative and flexible way. After receiving the award, Foodmaker’s founder Lieven Vanlommel said: “the idea of online ordering and delivery had been on my mind for years but because the company was constantly growing, we didn’t have time to think about it. That’s been the upside to this crisis.” There you have it.

4. Burger King: marketing to help others

During this crisis, there haven’t been many brands crying out: “help me! Me first!”. Intuitively, they joined together with a single request: “support us!”. Although this mutual support may seem more understandable among small, local businesses, we’ve seen more surprising examples from large retailers. Like Burger King, which, in a promotional campaign, encouraged consumers to support the entire restaurant sector, including its rival McDonald’s.

5. Silversquare: anticipating tomorrow’s needs

While co-working spaces are suffering, the Befimmo agency has opened a 7th Silversquare in Brussels and plans to launch two others. Suicidal or visionary? We’re convinced that co-working spaces have a bright future, although their clientèle is sure to change. Freelancers and start-ups will be joined by employees who need company but are no longer obliged to be physically present in the office every day. The pandemic has made it much easier to weigh up the advantages and the disadvantages of remote working. Today, workers have decided that they want the best of both worlds. Co-working spaces are one of the solutions.


Looking to adapt? Consider these 3 areas of focus

These examples illustrate that every crisis offers opportunities, and far from suffering in silence, some companies manage to bounce back, innovate and reinvent themselves. To do so, we think that it is vital to accept the things over which we have no control (the virus, restrictions, etc.) and to take action wherever possible. It’s a question of adapting, changing, converting.

If you’re thinking about converting your projects, focus on these three areas which are and will continue to be decisive in the coming years:

  • Sustainability and the environment
  • Digitisation
  • Health and (mental) well-being – the latter has taken centre stage during this pandemic.

Use these criteria as a kind of barometer to assess the relevance of your real estate or retail project.

There’s a fourth element. This isn’t a trend, it’s a principle rooted in humans’ very nature: connections, relationships.

This crisis has further illustrated and confirmed the importance of this when it comes to resilience.
Collective intelligence has made it possible to make giant strides in coronavirus research and to develop innovations at an incredible speed.
The importance of workplace connections may have been underestimated in the past; today, their impact on workplace well-being is better understood. So let’s nurture these relationships with our customers, suppliers, partners and more on a daily basis. That’s what we strive to do every day at GeoConsulting.


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GeoConsulting is accredited within the framework of the “Growth” voucher scheme. As such, GeoConsulting can carry out diagnostic and support missions in business growth and development.

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