The arcades become noble

Interview, published in the newspaper “Rheinische Post”

Matthias Böning, CEO of the Arcaden investor Mfi, explains the successful concept of modern shopping centres in times of online trading.

He reveals what the arcades look like and why the Dutch will come to Gladbach again for shopping.
Mr. Böning, your new center in Leipzig is big, in the middle of the city and looks noble. Is this what the shopping centers of the future will look like – including Mönchengladbach?

Böning: That’s absolutely right. For a real shopping experience, a center has to be big. Small but fine doesn’t work. The cities have to develop their good inner city locations in this sense in their own interest. And the quality of the architecture plays a major role. Customers can feel exactly whether a center offers good architecture or not. This is also a new way for our shop partners. We have to convince them of our sophisticated concept. Let me give you an example: In the Höfe am Brühl there is a McDonalds. That’s nothing special. But what’s special is the furnishings, for example the benches, which match the architectural concept of the center. You won’t find a McDonalds as beautiful as this one in the whole of Germany.

Will you build the Mönchengladbach Arcaden exactly in this sense, i.e. with a noble impression?

Böning: Yes, all three things also apply to Mönchengladbach. This is a large centre. If you look at the courtyards here in Leipzig, that’s pretty much the size of the arcades. It is located on Hindenburgstraße, the central shopping street in the middle of the city. And with Kadawittfeld there is an office that has great ideas for the design. You can be sure: This will be a similarly spectacular building as here in Leipzig, which will attract attention far beyond the city. Because of the topography, the arcades will of course look different from the courtyards here. Because of the curved shape, for example, we have some rather conical surfaces. This gives us completely different possibilities in terms of design.

In Leipzig, you have divided the center into four courtyards, each of which is aimed at specific customers, such as the Internet generation, the best agers, the fashion-conscious. These individual parts also have different architectural designs. Are you planning to do the same for Mönchengladbach?

Böning: The customer is not either-or, but as well as. Of course, more and more people are buying things on the Internet. But they also want to continue shopping. And that’s exactly what we offer them. I see an excellent future for shopping centers – if they focus on quality. Retailers have already learned this lesson before. When discounters came up on a large scale, markets such as Edeka focused more on freshness and high quality and are therefore very successful.

The trade must therefore be represented online and live. Are the stores then just showrooms for the online business in the long run?

Böning: We actually have a shop here in the Höfe am Brühl that is ultimately like a showroom. And do you know who that is? Vorwerk! They come from a whole! They come from a completely different sales tradition, but have recognized the signs of the times. Retailers will continue to generate the majority of their sales in stores. For a large chain store, this means that it may no longer have 250 stores in Germany, but only 180 and a strong Internet presence. By the way, they also need shopping centers like the Arcaden. For example, we offer our customers newsletters with current offers and promotions from shop partners and apps for navigating in the center.

How sure are you that the Arcaden in Gladbach will be a success?

Böning: Absolutely certain, because all the criteria for success mentioned are met in this project. With the Arcaden, Mönchengladbach is securing its position between the strong shopping city of Düsseldorf and the large outlets in the Netherlands. You will see: A lot of customers from the surrounding area will come back to the city for shopping. The Dutch will also come back. The integration of the center into the city will also contribute to this. We’ll be staging the square in front of the main entrance from the center. This will enhance the city centre once again.

The cooperation with artists has a long tradition for Mfi. What are your plans for Mönchengladbach?

Böning: This tradition already has a lot to do with Mönchengladbach. Heinz Mack has created works of art for some of our centers. We had his sculpture restored in the Bunte Garten. In the arcades, the theme of art will play a more external role than an internal one. We want to create a connection between the arcades and the Abteiberg with a sculpture mile. Although the wonderful Abteiberg Museum is located in the immediate vicinity of Hindenburgstrasse, it still seems a bit cut off. We want to make this connection more visible.


Ralf Jüngermann conducted the interview. Rheinische Post, 26.9.2012