Lively inner cities after COVID-19



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Revitalizing city centers Lively inner cities after COVID-19

Published on 23.03.2020 by Boris Hedde, Managing Director of IFH KÖLN

Local visitors are key. What do they think? What resulting changes can we make to revitalize city centers following the coronavirus crisis?

COVID-19 has closed down city centers and busy streets. There are significant fears about the economic consequences. Now’s the perfect time to plan how a restart might look. “Lively city centers 2020,” a study that interviewed around 58,000 pedestrians in German inner cities in September and October 2020, provides a blueprint.

The keys to post-lockdown revitalization include:

  1. Having loyal, regular visitors to the city center;
  2. Retail as a local factor;
  3. The importance of making visiting the city center an experience;
  4. Retailers’ digital maturity;
  5. Participation of local communities and
  6. The use of holistic city concepts.

1. Visitors

An empirical measurement was made which found that visitors to city centers tended to be older. Beyond this, around a fifth said that they came into the city less often because of online shopping.

2. Retail

Contrary to the opinions of many experts, retail is the main reason people visit the city, although other reasons such as hospitality, leisure and culture are also on the rise. The importance of retail should continued to be emphasized, because physical retail stores are proven factors in the overall appeal of inner cities.

3. Experience factor

The “experience” factor also plays an important role. According to the results of our analysis, it contributes heavily towards the overall appeal of city centers. But when measured under “satisfaction with the experience level in city centers“, this aspect proved to be relatively weak throughout Germany.

4. Digital maturity

Visitors also thought that the topic of “digitization” needs some work. Just half of respondents thought cities were well positioned for it. The visitor journey for each demographic represents a lever for the right strategy.

5. Communities

As communities with different expectations and preferences, different visitor groups reveal approaches that could help to revitalize city centers sooner. Reasons and motivations for visiting need to be linked together. When it comes to motivation, there needs to be stronger local cooperation between commercial and non-commercial players.

6. Holistic city concepts

The information collected in the studies indicates that respondents would like new “systematic city concepts”. It’s not just about optimizing the structure of providers by their product ranges. Rather, “soft” factors such as the desire for places to feel comfortable and meet people need to be considered.

In the detailed analysis of the results, there were several concrete approaches that can be implemented quickly. But be warned that it’s not rapid action that will make a difference, but rather the systematic construction of a new city experience that is sustainable and is based on the expectations of local visitors.

In summary, we need to take advantage of the crisis to make a “real” new beginning.

Boris Hedde, Managing Director of IFH KÖLN

Boris Hedde has been the managing director of the IFH KÖLN since late 2009. His work focuses on research-based market and customer analyses, as well as consulting on retail in the digital age and structural change (at the municipal level). Boris Hedde is the founder of “VITAIL - Competence Forum for Retail“ and participates in various initiatives relating to city centers and retail.

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