Tapping into the skill set of a younger generation that have grown up “in the internet age” and future-proofing retail property have been at the top of the agenda at annual global retail property show Mapic.

Asos non-executive director Peter Williams led the debate at the convention in Cannes. “We’ve got to employ young people – they always come up with new things and they’re less risk adverse,” he said.

Hiring young people and sending them round the world to study global retail results in “fresh ideas”, Williams told the audience at Jones Lang LaSalle’s Redefining Retail Places panel debate. He added that for physical retailers to survive in an increasingly virtual world, it’s vital “to have a point of difference and innovate”.

Debenhams’ international director of property Francis McAuley said emerging Asian retailers are another vital source of innovation.

“There’s a lot of innovation coming from Asia and not just China,” he said. “In Thailand there’s new young, funky, trendy brands in shopping malls,” he added and such innovation can “easily be transported into central Europe”.

Redefining retail property

How to future proof physical retail space in an increasingly virtual world another key topic of the Jones Lang LaSalle Redefining Retail Places debate.

Creating an attractive shopping environment is essential to do that, according to McAuley who added that a well-executed refurbishment strategy is crucial to “convert people into customers”. “You can’t ignore refurbishing the stores you’ve got because they’re important to the future.”

McAuley added that “flexibility and the ability to change your mind” are also key to long-term survival. For Debenhams, an example of this is its decision this year to completely focus on Russia as its main international market, rather than also India and China as in previous years. “China, Russia and India were key markets three years ago, now I’m not so sure. Today it’s Russia, the other two have proven difficult,” he said.

For Asos’ Williams, having a “clear and strong proposition” is also a guarantee for success.