Urban retailers face increasing competition through changing consumer behaviour including online shopping and greenfield shopping centres. This leads to vacant retail areas within cities, as customer footfall is channelled away from the centres.

This trend affects the commercial landscape in Luxembourg. Nevertheless, there is almost no data being collected that could help to provide a deeper understanding of the trend and how it can be counteracted. So, the General Directorate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises of the Luxembourgish Ministry of Economy, the Chamber of Commerce and the Luxembourg Confederation for Commerce (CLC) initiated the ‘Pakt PRO Commerce’.

The pact will help leverage the economic situation of retailers. A key part of the instrument is the Commercial Observation Register, a new tool to document and categorise businesses across the country. It can be used to analyse the commercial landscape and to inform decision-makers on where there is a large range of retailers and hence centrality as well as potential locations for additional retailers.

Rationale for action

The retailing sector is just one of the many sectors affected by digitalisation as more and more sales volume is generated online. In Luxembourg, between 80% and 90% of the population regularly shops online while only 10% of Luxembourg based shops offer products via the internet. In addition, many greenfield developments for large retailing centres are currently underway, probably decreasing customer footfall in city centres.

These trends threaten the survival of small urban retailers, as their customer base declines. Therefore, more and more retailing space risks being left vacant, which decreases the retail supply and the attractivity of city centers.

Objective

Increasing the understanding of ‘Why?’ and ‘How?’ these processes happen is the main objective of the Commercial Observation Register. This is a nation-wide database of retailers and their characteristics, enabling analysis of the commercial landscape in a city or municipality.

With the aid of data, the Commercial Observation Register can help answer critical questions for developing the urban commercial landscape, such as; ‘What trends shape and form a city’s commercial landscape?’, ‘How does the commercial landscape of a city look?’, ‘Where are the best locations for retailers currently?’ and ‘Where are ideal locations for new retailers?’. The answers assist decision making on urban development.

Time frame

‘Pakt PRO Commerce’, which includes the Commercial Observation Register, was launched in 2016. Collecting information on urban retailers in Luxembourg was completed in February 2019.

Key players

‘Pakt PRO Commerce’ was launched by three partners; the General Directorate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises of the Ministry of Economy, the Chamber of Commerce and the Luxembourg Confederation of Commerce (CLC). During the test phase, the Commercial Observation Register has been implemented and managed by the latter organisation.

Users of the Commercial Observation Register are municipal or national policy makers looking to make decisions that could impact the retail landscape.

Based on information from the Commercial Observation Register, the location and typology of shops could be mapped to identify the inner city area of the City of Dudelange. Source: CLC, 2018.

Implementation steps and processes

The Commercial Observation Register is a national database regrouping information on the locations and types of retailers. The CLC, in charge of implementation during the pilot phase, started designing the analysis tool in 2016. Since then, information about each retailer in the country has been surveyed, including address, name, type, size of retail space, business model and type of distribution. These results are fed into a central Geographic Information System (GIS) and can be used for further processing and analysis.

For first-hand analysis, the GIS database can provide information on all retailers in a given location at any time. For more in-depth analysis, the GIS database can be complemented with market analysis, i.e. purchasing power, location analysis and turnover forecasts.

Required resources

The first pilot phase of the Commercial Observation Register has been finalised in 2018. It is planned to make the tool accessible to decision-makers during 2021. However, information on required resources are not available. How the different municipalities and policy makers will be able to benefit from the Commercial Observation Register will be determined after first projects will be finalised, using information from the Register.

Results

With the Commercial Observation Register, municipalities and policy makers can access a versatile tool supporting decision-making. It enables appropriate strategic decisions shaping future commercial landscapes in cities and municipalities. The tool enables definitions of commercial centres, decisions on locating new retailers and understanding impacts of trends, such as digitalisation, on the urban retailing environment.

To elaborate additional benefits and applications of the Commercial Observation Register, the instrument will be tested in five cities. This will enable additional conclusions on specialised applications as well as the data and analysis required to react to specific issues, such as shop vacancy, parking and accessibility, trends in the retailing sector and more. Testing the tool will also provide insights as to when the information can be used best to shape local decision making. This helps to create tailor-made and result-oriented applications for the various retail sector players in Luxembourg.

Potential use of the Commercial Observation Register can be illustrated through development of the new district ‘am Duerf’ by the municipality of Dudelange within the city centre. This new district helped to bridge a commercially deserted area between the two main commercial centres. The number of businesses has increased from 167 to 215 (2018) in just three years, increasing the attraction of the city centre. Also, two commercial hotspots which were formerly separated could be transformed by the ‘am Duerf’ development into a single, continuous retail district (see Map).

The pilot of the Commercial Observation Register has been extended in 2019 on the cities of Esch-sur-Alzette, Diekirch, Remich and Bertrange, addressing different challenges to urban retailers throughout the country.

Map of the commercial situation before and after development of the ‘am Duerf’ district. Source: CLC, 2018.

Experiences, success factors, risks

In the future, the Commercial Observation Register will become a powerful tool to assist policy makers in shaping development of the retailing sector. Not only location, but also decisions on retail space needs can be influenced by the tool. However, the Commercial Observation Register relies on an extensive data collection procedure. Only if data is collected regularly in every municipality can there be reliable observations on trends. This might reflect on the operational costs of the tool for its stakeholders.

Conclusions

The Commercial Observation Register is an instrument with a lot of potential applications to shape retailing functions in Luxembourg’s cities and municipalities. It informs policy makers about the retailing landscape, type and development of supply so they can make decisions considering changing consumer behaviour. Even though such an instrument is not new to the set of tools available to urban planners, it is the first of its kind in Luxembourg. More initiatives like the Commercial Observation Register supporting domestic retailers and shop owners, such as the online platform “Letzshop”, have been implemented recently.

Contact

General contact address of the Luxembourg Confederation of Commerce: info@clc.lu

References

Pact PRO Commerce, 2018 (in French and German): https://www.procity.lu/fr/2018/07/16/quelle-valeur-ajoutee-le-nouveau-cadastre-du-commerce-offre-t-il/

Luxembourg Confederation for Commerce, 2018: The new Commercial observation register for Luxembourg. What’s the added-value? (in German): https://www.procity.lu/2018/07/16/das-neue-cadastre-du-commerce-welchen-mehrwert-bietet-es/

Wort, 2020: Le cadastre commercial fait attendre (in French): https://www.wort.lu/fr/luxembourg/le-cadastre-commercial-se-fait-attendre-5e4417feda2cc1784e3560fe

Public administrations are usually more reluctant to adopt processes based on new and innovative technologies than private actors. This is because these processes can have shortcomings or pitfalls that are not immediately apparent. Also, new processes can raise new questions and challenges for public decision-makers such as data security and protection against hacking. Public actors however must keep pace with the digitalisation in the private sector not to create bottlenecks for digitalisation in the country.

Géoportail’ (Geoportal) is an online platform providing and summarising geographic data for multiple user groups. Set up by the land register and topographic administration of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, it was launched in 2011 to increase transparency, digitalising information and making it more accessible for users.

Different thematic sections in Géoportail.

Rationale for action

Geographic data used by public administrations is often not simply accessible to the public. Some data is classified as confidential, some is not confidential but is unavailable to the public. This can be due to missing platforms, complex query processes, etc. New communication technologies can make such data easily accessible.

Data often lie in different repositories without being coordinated and combined. Making them accessible, with a focus on standardising data types, data categories, metadata and so on, creates a database from which more than the public benefits.

The Géoportail was set up provide open source access to publicly owned, geographic information. Making this available follows the European Union policies in the INSPIRE directive (INfrastructure of SPatial InfoRmation in Europe) from 2007. By making data openly accessible, free to use and reuse, governance processes and decisions become more transparent for citizens.

Digital Elevation Model in Géoportail.

Objective

The idea behind Géoportail is to harmonise public geodata from different institutions (i.e. the environment ministry and the ministry in charge of the land register). The online geodata system provides individual users, professional users and developers with multiple functionalities. Individuals can for example easily access cadastral, topographic information and also information on infrastructure, environment, tourism, land use plans. Information displayed on the Géoportail can be exported to either PNG or PDF format for individual users.

In addition to this, professionals and developers can use other functionalities the Géoportail provides. These are for example the applications of MAP API and MAP APIV3 that allows spatial information to be retrieved for the use on external websites, access aerial images, plan routes, track a surveying request and much more.

Not only the geodata is made available to the public by storing it in the Géoportail, it also assists state services by giving them additional information through a multi-level access system. For example, notaries in Luxembourg can query the full information of land owners on the land register, whereas the public would see only the name and post code of the owner.

Time Frame

2011 – ongoing (2021), constant updates

Key players

Ministries, especially the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning, the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, plus the land register and topographic administration, data suppliers and municipalities.

Implementation steps and processes

In 2010, development started, which was finalised January 2011 when the Géoportail was published. In May 2011, the application for mobile devices was released. Regular updates continue to improve the platform and introduce new functionalities, such as the possibility to measure distances and surfaces, introduced in 2015. Géoportail was implemented through tendering for the required services.

Land zoning plans in Géoportail.

Results

Géoportail is accessible through the web. The modular platform can be used for multiple forms of spatial data. For the Tour de France 2017, Géoportail was used to show the route of the race in Luxembourg for example. It has also stored information on the road network and infrastructure, built-up environments, water courses, soil types, locations of public infrastructure, land register parcels, hunting areas, points of interest and much more. It recently incorporated points of interest from the Editus portal, the yellow pages in Luxembourg. The platform provides different information for different users. Private individuals can access all the above material and professionals working with geodata such as notaries for instance can access more data.

Following the reform of the spatial planning law in 2003 and the step-by-step finalisation of the PAG (local land-use plans), the portal also provides information on planned land-use. Municipalities must upload their local land-use plans onto the platform in a special format so the results of participation and planning processes are available to the public. The PAG are uploaded for each municipality so the entire country is covered.

Experiences, success factors, risks

Géoportail is a successful and user-friendly attempt to make public data accessible. It represents a platform that makes it possible to integrate any type of spatial data in the future to different user groups. It also permits for the integration of data on specific events such as the Tour de France.

Soil typology map on Géoportail.

Conclusion

Key to successful implementation of such an online platform is user-friendliness. A complicated portal risks becoming a ‘data dustbin’ where data is provided but not used. Simple design and layout are important. This applies not only for individuals who can export data in a common file format (PDF, PNG, JPG, etc.) but also professionals, who need to work with exported information (SHP, TIFF, GDB, etc.). Géoportail is also fully integrated into the OpenData Portal of Luxembourg, making it possible to easily amend or complement information.

Contact

E-mail address of the land register and topographic administration: support.geoportail@act.etat.lu

References

Géoportail website: https://www.geoportail.lu/en/

Website of the land register and topographic administration of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: https://act.public.lu/fr/index.html