Case study

Future outline of Amsterdam's retail landscape

June 6, 2023

A busy shopping street in Amsterdam

A busy shopping street in Amsterdam

Enjoying a day of shopping in Amsterdam: strolling past shop windows with a waffle in hand, popping into a vintage shop and then checking out the latest iPhone. The city centre attracts a wide range of visitors - a familiar street scene, but will it stay that way? The shopping landscape is constantly changing. How do you respond to new trends, or in other words, how do you make shopping areas in the centre of a large city future-proof for residents and visitors? To answer this question, Luuk Appelman, policy maker at the municipality of Amsterdam, called in CBRE's data and research team.


A gym in the city centre, or a trendy office? Owners of retail properties see the city changing, and would like to respond by exploring other functions. Luuk: 'That is not possible as long as they are bound by the current regulations, so new policy is needed. But the municipality is not going to take any chances, and first wants to get a better picture of the current retail landscape.'

What are the facts?

'Many people think of Amsterdam as a mob of tourists making their way past souvenir shops, coffee shops and Nutella tuck shops. For that reason, "the Amsterdammer" is said to avoid the city centre. But is this really the case? And what does the rise of e-commerce mean for the future of physical shops? Moreover, it was not clear to what extent there are structural vacancies,' says Luuk. The municipality of Amsterdam does not have the expertise to answer these questions - CBRE's research team does.

The city in data

Led by Frank Verwoerd, the data and research team made a cluster classification of all shopping areas, based on GPS data of visitors and other characteristics of different shopping streets. They identified a total of five cluster areas, each with its own visitor profile. This showed, for example, that only two clusters have high tourist pressure and that other areas are visited by many Amsterdammers. Luuk: 'That first phase was very interesting for us right from the start, because this classification gave us an overview: which shopping streets have structural vacancy and perhaps need new policy - and which shopping streets actually function fine?'

A new destination?

You don't want to interrupt a shopping street, because then visitors think it ends there and they stop shopping, says Luuk. 'So if you want to give a building a different function - in other words, use it alternatively - you have to think about it carefully.' The data analysis by Frank and his colleagues shows in which areas transformation to housing does not hamper the retail function. They also included social considerations in their conclusions. Luuk: 'Some social organisations you want in the city centre too, but the owners cannot pay a high rent. Think of a day nursery or a health centre. As a municipality, you can adapt your policy to that and, for example, release subsidies for it.'

European research

Furthermore, the municipality was also very curious to know how city centres were developing in the rest of Europe. Because CBRE has offices in numerous cities, the research team could easily find out that information. Luuk: 'We were interested in cities that attract many tourists, but Frank advised us to focus on other trends as well. An important development, for example, is that of e-commerce: in 2030, 30 per cent of purchases in the Netherlands will take place online. This will affect the supply of physical shops. Cities like Dublin and London are already at that share and are therefore good comparison material. That data helps us to future-proof shopping areas.'

Get everyone involved

Thorough research does not stop with a report; you have to keep involving parties, Luuk believes. 'Frank and his colleagues did that very organically. At an earlier stage, they held a presentation for the alderman, so that he was involved in the research from the start. Later, they organised a meeting with property owners on alternative agility. Because they know what is going on in the property market, they are an equal discussion partner for them. That helps to create support. From set-up to aftercare: with this research, the data and research team has laid a foundation for new steps at policy level. Now the ball is in our court - which means we have work to do!'

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