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No Substitute for Experience
Jorge Ponce
28th June 2019

During his three-decade career at Carrefour, Javier Zamorano Serrano played his part in helping them navigate the constantly shifting retail landscape.

Having retired at the end of last year, here he talks to Broadway Malyan Director Jorge Ponce about his career, the changing needs of customers and the importance of trusted collaborators.

How long did you work in retail?

When I finished my education in 1981, I started working with José Ángel Rodrigo, one of Spain’s major retail specialist architects, with whom I got involved in my first architectural experiences in Spain, working on projects such as La Vaguada in Madrid.

In 1991, I joined Carrefour and up to 2000 I led and coordinated all of Carrefour’s shopping centre openings in Spain with my team being the interface between our technical collaborators and the strategic project scope of our company.

After being made Director of Architecture in Carrefour Group, I have been involved in setting up projects in a host of different countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Italy as well as being responsible for the renewal and extension of up to 100 hypermarkets and 20 shopping centres in Spain for Carrefour. “The important thing is to unveil new experiences for consumers”

Where did you study?

I initially studied at Escuela de Arquitectura in Madrid, the city where I was born, raised, was married and still work and live. Both my professional and personal life has developed completely in this town.

What have been your duties since Carrefour changed to Carrefour Property in 2008?

When Carrefour Property was created a new phase started. All the Carrefour assets became the property of this new company, and our work, because of it, focused on real estate, with a wide range of retail units, from hypermarkets to big shopping centres.

Between 2008 and 2016, three big shopping centres were opened in Spain: As Cancelas in Santiago de Compostela, Holea in Huelva and FAN in Palma de Mallorca, the last two in collaboration with Broadway Malyan as architect designers and works supervisors. Each of them exceed 50,000m2 GLA.

Along with this, in 2011 I began working in the Architecture Division of Carrefour Group with responsibility for the analysis and promotion of new developments in Latin America, especially in the Argentinian and Brazilian markets.

This way, in 2014 we opened Terrazas de Mayo in Buenos Aires following another collaboration with Broadway Malyan. And in November 2017, we opened Jardim Pamplona in Sao Paulo, an urban shopping centre of five-storeys, something not well understood in this sector that works really well in this immense Brazilian city. In this period, I have also been adviser in other countries such as Italy where we opened I Viali in Turin in October 2017.

Interior photo of feature green wall at Holea retail and leisure centre in Huelva, Spain.

During our training as architects, retail has no importance at all. It seems it has been left behind from the academic perspective – what’s been your experience in this sense?

The truth is neither architecture schools nor professional colleges offer many opportunities to become specialised in retail architecture, when the reality is that this sector is one of the biggest employers of architects.

Recently the Colegio de Arquitectos de Madrid has organised a monograph promoted by a colleague, but it still remains the belief that retail architecture is not that honourable. There’s still much to be done by all involved in this sector.

Nevertheless, both you and I have discovered our passion for this architecture that incorporates a host of other elements such as economics and client attraction. Aligned with this thought, and after our attendance at this year’s ICSC event in Barcelona, I came to the conclusion that this sector is living a revolution, with incredibly high uncertainty due to the e-commerce explosion.

What is Carrefour doing (a company, as the English say, of bricks-and-mortar) to face this challenge and to adapt to this new scenario?

There is no doubt that the distribution sector is changing all around the world. In Spain, hypermarkets were traditionally the shopping centre anchors but this is changing. The e-commerce arrival has made us rethink the traditional way of doing things.

Carrefour implemented an ambitious process of digital transformation that tries to respond to the new requirements and new habits of this evolving consumer.

Photo of extension building to retail destination Fan Mallorca in Spain, featuring thermal coverings and photovoltaic panels.

Do you believe that in the future, physical retail will disappear and everything will be done online?

Personally, I do believe that we’ll keep visiting the physical store, but there is a fusion between online and offline worlds. There will not be a physical shop without online services and, on the other hand, there will not be an online shop without a physical presence. Therefore, I do believe stores and shopping centres will not disappear. Furthermore, this will encourage them to adapt to this new model. The important thing is to unveil a new physical experience for these consumers born with a screen in their hands.

What’s Carrefour position about the mobility revolution?

Mobility has pushed us to rethink many things over the past couple of years. If the average for a 50,000m2 GLA shopping centre is to have 2,500 parking spaces, mobility invited us to rethink this ratio and challenged us to examine new ideas for what to do with existing parking spaces. If the new mobility goes ahead, and shared, electrical, autonomous vehicles and drones are the future then many spaces will be available for new purposes.

In this sense, new ideas on what to do are emerging, whether that is sporting activities, different events or pop ups. Whatever is implemented, is a space where communion and commerce meet. Shopping centres will no longer be places just to shop. Why not give a new use to that space for leisure or for family experiences? I have a strong belief that this is the direction of retail.

Given that we are 60 years old these days, we’d like to know what’s the great value for Carrefour Property in working with Broadway Malyan?

Throughout our work together, it was always clear that you have people capable to adapt to Carrefour’s structure and philosophy, creating a close and direct relationship, till the point of being part of the family.

Second attribute would be the flexibility and capacity to understand Carrefour's needs as promoters: to be keen to endorse the client’s needs.

And, last but not least, the creativity and versatility: to design and facilitate a variety of ad-hoc solutions for the same issue.

I could add many other particularities, such as reactiveness. A promoter always needs external consultants with reactive capacities, a quality we always found in Broadway Malyan.