Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Retail Insight – Shopping centres will become…what?

Retail Insight - Shopping centres will become…what? 1

In this month’s Retail Insight, Jorge Beroiz, Principal at CallisonRTKL gives us an insight into four strategies for the reinvention of the so-called ghost shopping centre.

Following the onset of online retail, traditional shopping centres were declared dead by a slew of media outlets not so long ago. However, this announcement was no different than the expectation for Kindle to replace printed books, or for Netflix to render movie theatres obsolete. Just as consumers still love the feel of a book or a Friday night trip to the movies, shoppers will continue to congregate in shopping centres for convenience, community, and for the enjoyment of shopping in person.

It’s true that shopping centres must change: to suit evolving lifestyles, compete with the efficiency of online stores and offer experiences for new consumers. Contrary to popular belief though, our suburban areas will not be depressed by thousands of vacant shopping centres. While some will bring more value as an entirely different use, many of them have long-term viability if they are creatively reimagined to meet shifting consumer needs and if they are better integrated into surrounding communities.

As we consider what to do with our shopping centres, it’s clear that retail will continue to dominate these developments in their next chapter — things will simply look and feel a bit different. The new generation of shopping districts will require a narrative journey that drives a careful choreography of blended uses, while maintaining retail at its core.

There are four strategies that will allow the reinvention of shopping centres, providing communities with new ways of sharing experiences and connecting with the wider place.

Reimagine anchors of the future
The concept of shopping centres brought fashion to the suburbs. They gave teenagers a place to socialise with friends and families a space to buy everything they needed at once, along with a meal at the end. Now, many of the brands that attracted shoppers are failing. Only a select few continue to thrive – these brands have reinvented themselves as experiential destinations.

Along with these retail innovators, savvy owners and developers are turning to entertainment retailers and venues as a means of attracting visitors and they’re capitalising on those dark department store spaces. A thoughtful program of experiential offerings — whether a single tenant or a rotating list — can bring vital interest back to shopping districts, while giving people a reason to shop and stay for a while longer. The shopping centres which are leading the way in the UK and the wider world, offer a variety of incentives to keep shoppers active and in the building.

Many shopping centres are attracting new tenants who offer experiences like escape rooms, virtual reality options and even arcades and soft play centres. These will play a huge part in the future of shopping districts which are diversifying their offering to continue to attract shoppers. The creation of food market districts which comprise numerous local restaurants, street food, cocktail bars and pubs are also acting as an anchor to keep shoppers occupied and amongst the busy footfall.

Return to the community
The plight of yesterday’s shopping centres was in part caused by their tendency to operate as standalone experiences, separated from other destinations. This was by design, but is no longer an effective strategy to attract today’s audience. Tomorrow’s shopping centres will not be centred around shopping anymore and a new name should be given. These will be centred on the community, as it reflects the values and culture while meeting consumer needs. Blended-use environments will allow retail, residential, entertainment, hospitality and other uses to overlap along public green spaces. Retail will be the connective tissue of these environments, but not the only experience offered. Designed as a local hub, rather than a traditional shopping centre, these spaces will become neighbourhood gathering places, where people can purchase goods, but also have access to vital everyday services: community healthcare, fresh food, gyms and pop-ups featuring local vendors.

Revive the street
To make retail spaces successful, they can no longer act as barriers to communities, with seas of parking lots and experiences that only face inward. In some cases and especially in more urban environments, the mall will be completely “de-malled”. In other words, buildings will be outward looking without the walls and ceilings that characterised earlier shopping centres. They will become the new high streets and will allow pedestrians and limited vehicular traffic to return. The now-empty parking structures will be transformed into parks and outdoor venues. When complete, it will be hard to recognise the remnants of the enclosed and insular retail centre.

Repurpose entirely
Some existing shopping centres will need to be completely reinvented and others demolished. They may shift their purpose from providing consumer products to servicing consumer industries with fulfillment and distribution centres. Others will pivot to education or healthcare campuses, with a focus on technology, life sciences, co-working or higher education. Shopping centres today are often positioned in key locations near major highways or mass-transit lines, which are critical to the future success of any mixed-use development. The opportunities to reposition and evolve their structures and facilities are endless and we will see the transitions evolve over the next few years as consumer behaviour continues to change with the times we’re living in.

In summary, bricks and retail mortar isn’t dead because ultimately as human beings, we crave physical experiences and human interaction. However, to survive the future, shopping centres have to evolve, with developers, owners and investors taking a more holistic view to mixed-use destinations and increasing dwell time, where retail plays a part but importantly, it is simply a component of the mix.

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