Mallplaza was born more than 30 years ago in the capital city of Santiago, Chile, as a medium-size shopping center with a couple of department stores. Now, after much growth and innovation, it boasts 25 shopping centers in 16 key cities spread among Chile, Peru and Colombia. While much has changed from the Mallplaza of 1990 to the one of today, an unwavering constant has been its vision of making lives better, says CEO Fernando de Peña Yver.
“It’s a purpose that’s shared by us all; we seek to create urban spaces that improve people’s quality of life,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “We’ve been on a journey of great innovation, of great creativity, where we put people at the center of our work. We look to add value to them in ways that generate wellbeing.”
It’s an ethos that has contributed greatly to the shopping center’s success. “This value proposal has really led to the development of the company, not only of new centers but also the growth of the centers themselves,” Fernando shares.
“We have 19.4 million leasable square feet. Half of that growth has been driven by new locations and the other half has been driven by the growth of the locations themselves.”
These teachings have guided us not only to have the best retail proposal for each market, but also the best of everything.
Fernando describes it as a “guided” growth, generated by continuously adding value over time. “We started with a traditional shopping mall with two department stores and retail, but we quickly realized that people wanted other things,” he says. “They wanted spaces to meet, to socialize, to be entertained.
“In addition, they needed education, health care and access to culture. They needed open spaces and closed spaces. And these teachings have guided us not only to have the best retail proposal for each market, but also the best of everything.”
Fernando admits that they haven’t always got things right the first time, but that doesn’t mean they ever quit trying. “In our 30 years, we have made an enormous amount of mistakes, but those huge mistakes have allowed us to generate the best successes too,” he says. “Failure, if you accept it as an apprenticeship in life, will allow you to do many things.”
Failure then can be commended for making Mallplaza a one-stop shop for everything its visitors are after. There are food courts, restaurants, home-equipment shops, supermarkets, banking services, government services offices, movie theaters, medical centers, universities and more. “First and foremost, we are a meeting place. We promote the socialization of people,” Fernando asserts.
“The focus is and has always been to put people at the center and connect, getting to know them intimately, so we can understand their needs. Not just the needs they have of procuring goods and services, but having that deep understanding of what causes them to want those items, what makes them happy. If we manage to understand that, then it generates opportunities to continue innovating, growing and adding value.”
With Mallplaza’s core business strategy centered on an altruistic, people-first policy, navigating COVID-19 and its challenges has been all the easier. “COVID-19 has accelerated digitalization, and there’s no doubt that there’s a huge transformation happening in the industry because of it,” Fernando says. “And it’s bringing big opportunities.”
For example, when lockdowns happened and all of Mallplaza’s kitchens were closed, Fernando and his team used the parking lots to set up what he calls “pit stops” for all the delivery partners to come and pick up food safely and contact free.
“We achieved two things with this,” he explains. “First, for our customers, we managed to provide them with options for food and beverage delivery. And two, with technology, we were able to save the delivery drivers up to 15 minutes per trip. This helped our kitchens continue selling at least half of what they sold before while in lockdown, which was huge. It just goes to show that we can play a very important role in this omnichannel world we are living in from all of our different locations.”
“Many of our malls are LEED certified. In fact, Mallplaza Egaña won the ICSC award for the most sustainable shopping center in the world four years ago,” Fernando says. “Our sustainability strategy is very focused on the environment. We have very strong recycling campaigns and about 15 hectares [37 acres] of parks and gardens in our shopping centers. We also compost leftover foods from our food courts and plastic bags are not used in Mallplaza malls.”
Mallplaza even managed to grow its locations during the pandemic, opening a new shopping center in Lima, Peru, and acquiring another one in Bogota, Colombia. “We are completely remodeling the one in Bogota, incorporating the first IKEA ever in Colombia,” Fernando says. “In search of new formats, we are developing a large showroom, which incorporates electromobility, the opportunity to experience and test the cars, and also access a wide range of brands and car sellers.
“At the same time, we’re also beginning to develop co-work spaces because people are changing how they work. They don’t want to be in the office 40 hours a week. They want flexibility, and we believe this will help give that to them.”
There are a lot of competitors to contend with, but Fernando is confident Mallplaza will always come out on top. “We want to make lives better,” he says. “And we have the technologies, the dynamism to keep up with today’s accelerated pace. We have the restlessness to keep innovating, and we learn from our mistakes and keep going.”
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