EuroShop and the City of Düsseldorf: how city centres of the future will work

The photo shows the Königsallee in Düsseldorf.
Düsseldorf's city center is already doing a lot in terms of attractiveness. (Copyright: C. Tillmann)

In the future, city centres will have to offer more than just shopping experiences. What exactly is meant by this can be marvelled at during the international retail trade fair EuroShop – and in Düsseldorf’s city centre. Here we test out what the successful interaction of food service, culture, shopping and sustainability might look like. And Messe Düsseldorf plays a key role in this.

Düsseldorf looks back on a long tradition as a shopping metropolis. As early as 1915 some one hundred retail stores along the “Königsallee” were already vying for the favour of demanding shoppers. In the mid-1950s the trams running along the elegant shopping mile were removed to make it easier for visitors to stroll. In around 20 years the famous Altstadt (Old Town) was transformed into a pedestrian zone; the Rhine embankment was built in the 1990s, making visits to the city centre even more attractive. Düsseldorf’s versatility pays off: every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors come the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. Even during the Covid year 2021 the city posted around 1.9 million overnight stays by German and international tourists. Figures that show just how well the Düsseldorf city centre has coped with the challenges of the past few years – like booming e-commerce, Covid and the energy crisis. It continues to be the place where people meet; this is the beating heart of the city.

City centres – Places of excitement

The photo shows Düsseldorf's City Manager Frank Hermsen.
Düsseldorf City Manager Frank Hermsen intends to boost the city center’s attractiveness. (Copyright: C. Tillmann)
People like Frank Hermsen make sure that it stays like this in the future. As a City Manager he looks after the area around Königsallee, Schadowstraße and the Altstadt with a view to making them even more attractive. There are no looming empty retail spaces in Düsseldorf like in many other cities, he says, but the Covid pandemic has not remained entirely without consequences here either. “Some retailers and restaurateurs were hit so hard by revenue losses that they had to close down completely,” reports Hermsen. The City Manager is aiming on new avenues to strengthen the city centre and make it futureproof: “We must no longer view city centres purely as places of consumption. They have to become more multi-functional places of exitement.” In fact, studies also show that the pure focus on retail leads nowhere. According to the “Deutschlandstudie Innenstadt 2022” (Germany City Centre Survey 2022), shopping in city centres no longer plays the leading role for younger people. Alongside good shopping facilities they want green open spaces to linger, co-working spaces, healthcare services and education facilities. In a nutshell: a colourful mixture.

The photo shows EuroShop Director Elke Moebius.
EuroShop offers stationary retail opportunities to continue shaping vital city centers in the future, says Director Elke Moebius. (Copyright: C. Tillmann)
The city centre of the future is also a topic at the world’s biggest retail trade fair EuroShop at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre. “EuroShop offers retailers all the instruments needed to shape stationary stores in the sense of vibrant city centres,” emphasises EuroShop Director Elke Moebius. Many of the dimensions at EuroShop such as Retail Marketing, Retail Technology, Shopfitting, Store Design & Visual Merchandising but also Food Service Equipment for retail restaurateurs offer solutions to turning stores or shopping centres into attractive meeting points. A special highlight is the Future Urban Lab which, jointly with the trade fair visitors, showcases and develops new attractiveness factors and reasons to visit tomorrow’s cities. For topics like quality of stay, experience, digitalisation, mobility and sustainability the expert audience will work out highlights for vibrant city centres. Underlining the special charms of this concept, Elke Moebius says: “Lego bricks are used for this. Visitors place them at the themed island they consider most relevant. The resulting towers easily reflect the trending themes.”

Creating synergies

In Düsseldorf’s city centre Frank Hermsen reacts to the numerous factors of attractiveness for city centres with intense networking. He brings together stakeholders from urban planning, culture, retail and food services. Together, they develop ideas and projects that benefit all parties involved. “Visiting our city centre is to become an event in its own right,” Frank Hermsen says outlining his vision. “Ideally, people come to the city to shop, then visit a museum or an event and later wind down from the day at a bar or in a restaurant.” Those wanting to relax or work will find green oases and modern working spaces anywhere in the public space. Düsseldorf has come a long way to reach this goal, says Hermsen, not least because of its good infrastructure. “We do justice to the village element in our name (‘-dorf’ = village), in the positive sense of the word. We are lucky enough to be a major city where you can still quickly get from one highlight to the next, thanks to the short distances.”

Success factor climate protection

The photo shows Sven Schulte, Trade and Urban Development Officer at the Düsseldorf Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
According to IHK consultant Sven Schulte, the city of Düsseldorf is already doing some things right. (Copyright: C. Tillmann)
Sven Schulte also believes Düsseldorf is already doing lots of things right. Citing but one example here, the retail and urban development expert at the Düsseldorf Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC) mentions the city’s approach to climate change. Climate change is already making itself felt with very high temperatures in the Düsseldorf city centre today. A major problem, tackled with constructive solutions: in 2020, 30,000 hornbeams were planted on the roof and inclined walls of the newly erected business and office property “K II” – Europe’s biggest green façade. A project that not only improves air quality and cools down the city centre as the plants mitigate the temperature rise. It has also blessed Düsseldorf with an additional architectural highlight. And it won’t be the last, says Sven Schulte. “Such lighthouse projects also attract new investors.” On the Königsallee alone, several billion Euros are to be spent on buildings over the coming years.

Exhibition Centre as a focal point

Like Frank Hermsen, Sven Schulte and the CIC also regard the networking of important stakeholders as a key success factor for tomorrow’s city centres. Messe Düsseldorf plays a pivotal role here as a visitor magnet. In its position paper “Perspektiven für die Düsseldorfer Innenstadt 2030” (Perspectives for Düsseldorf City Centre 2030) the CIC recommends, amongst other things, offering more events and activities in the centre that tie in with the trade fair programme. This could be pop-up stores in vacant retail premises, special shows on the “Kö” or matching themed gastronomic events.

City Manager Frank Hermsen is excited about such ideas. “A city only becomes liveable if it remains in a constant state of flux. This not only positively impacts its citizens but also the numerous visitors from throughout the world who come to our city as part of the trade fairs. This makes their visit to the city centre even more exciting because they can discover something new each time.”

How Düsseldorf city centre can remain l(i/o)vable

      1. Events with international appeal: from regular street festivals to multi-day cultural events such as Japan Day or nonrecurring highlights like the Eurovision Song Contest or the Tour de France – Düsseldorf offers a lot. In the future, events like these will be staged even more often and regularly in the state capital.
      2. Places to linger with internet access: relax or work – both will be possible in the public zones the city wants to create. These will feature comfortable seating and free, powerful Wi-Fi access covering the entire city centre.
      3. Safety first: the city centre is to become even safer. Which is why the municipal authorities plan to invest some half a million Euros in improved lighting and deploy more security staff in the city.
      4. Sustainability please: When erecting new buildings plenty of greenery and solar power will become the standard. The spectacular skyscraper “Twist” will even be equipped with a landing place on the roof for electrical air taxis. Last but not least, Düsseldorf’s streets are to be painted in light colours in the future. This will slow down the warming of the city centre due to solar radiation.

The future of city centres as retail locations is one of the Hot Topics at EuroShop 2023. The leading international trade fair for retail offers innovative and sustainable solutions for the retail industry.

Vibrant City Centresädte
Future Urban Labächen/Future_Urban_Lab
Think Sustainably – Act Responsiblyächen/THINK_SUSTAINABLY_–_ACT_RESPONSIBLY

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