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The Future of Shopping Malls

With the rise of online retail many might assume that the shopping mall is like the high street, under threat of becoming an outdated concept. However, the reality seems to be quite the contrary. Shopping malls are starting to evolve and adapt beyond being utilitarian locations where shoppers go purely to make multiple retail transactions.

For the retail tenants, the basic needs are for larger footprints, higher footfall and fair rents. Impressive architecture, clever planning, strong tenant mixes and effective transport links all help to meet these goals, but in themselves are no longer sufficient grounds to guarantee survival. Research data show that people are shopping in fewer geographical locations and less frequently. Our own data show that footfall volumes entering physical stores are over -15% lower than they were only five years ago.

How are shopping malls integrating new forms of technology?

In order to survive change in shopping habits, shopping mall owners and management teams have acknowledged that the mall of the 21st century has to offer a lot more. Digital technology, rather than threatening shopping malls, should in fact help to secure their future within the retail ecosystem.

In our connected world, shoppers are using their smartphones to assist with purchasing decisions, whether it be to make price comparisons, wayfaring, or receiving special offers. With open access Wi-Fi expected of shopping malls, the data that can be mined provide valuable ongoing insights about customers, such as how long they spend there, how often they visit and which combination of shops and facilities they use.

Along with technology use, centres must embrace modern consumer living. There are various ways to achieve this, including offering, firstly, a sense of occasion or experience. Secondly, they can also deliver convenience to the ever-busy consumer, at transport nodes or other key touchpoints central to people’s everyday lives, such as at London Heathrow’s T5. And thirdly they can provide mixed-use spaces to accommodate the blurring of boundaries between retail and leisure activities, for example, and in work/life balance.

By adapting to changing consumer habits and using new technologies to evolve with the organic retail landscape, shopping malls can remain a hot destination for shoppers.