Volker Putzmann on Reinventing the City Center

11 Jan, 2022
by Natascha Zeljko

Germany’s city centers have become ghost towns as retail trade has moved online. How can we revitalize these retail hubs? Volker Putzmann, Marketing Director at international clothing brand NEW YORKER and a member of CURAZE, shares his vision for the future of retail

What are the most important issues and drivers of today’s business world?

First and foremost, the challenges during the coronavirus pandemic and the still unclear and vastly different conditions for retailers in each individual German state. Retail as an industry is one of the largest employers in Germany and there are still many jobs at risk. It’s not only the lockdown that caused problems for many retailers, but also other modernization concepts, for example Click and Collect services. These have always resulted in a significant decrease in in-store customers.

... and what are the biggest challenges?

In the long-term, rethinking and developing city centers to make them welcoming and future-proof for all citizens. Good accessibility and mobility concepts for public transportation and other traffic are important here, as is strengthening city center retail trade using digital technologies. After all, retail is the building block of our cities, so city centers have an important social function and should provide a good supply of goods. Of course, the unequal conditions of traditional retail and online retail must also be scrutinized. Online shops can be accessed 24/7 and have little or no store rents and lower personnel costs.

What innovations and tech trends do you find particularly exciting?

New apps that cater to customer needs and offer more customer service. Virtual reality will continue to rise to prominence, as will the increasing use and widespread application of AI. What Facebook/Meta is planning also promises to be exciting: a virtual world mirroring the real world.

What idea, product or thought leader has excited or inspired you lately?

I'd like to mention Elon Musk, who revolutionized the car industry when no one even had e-mobility on their radar and is also a pioneer in many other areas. Autonomous driving, renewable energies, the networking of transport infrastructure, etc. There are so many industries in which he is making waves. He is driven by ingenuity and his willingness to take risks. A year ago, he was honored with the Axel Springer Award for being a visionary, which made me very happy.

Why do cultural change and digital transformation belong together?

Because there are no other options in difficult situations like those we are experiencing now. We have to listen even more closely to our customers and respond to their wishes and needs. To do this, the culture in the company must also evolve further in order to remain in constant contact with the target group and to adapt to changing consumer behaviors.

In one sentence, what is one topic that we should no longer be discussing in five years’ time?

We should be responding in a more nuanced way to the challenges of our time and not just implementing blanket measures.

What makes companies successful in the long term? What makes leadership successful in the long term…

is listening to customers and incorporating their opinions and preferences into the product and marketing strategy. Always thinking outside the box. Showing responsibility and treating other points of view with respect. Good leadership is characterized by involving employees in fundamental decisions so that they are transparent and understandable for everyone.

Do you want to become a member of CURAZE, our innovator’s network? Join our growing community and register to our matchmaking platform here.

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