ACROSS | The European Retail Real Estate Magazine

Opinion

How Bricks-and-Mortar Centers Fight Back

Image: Mall of Switzerland

In an increasingly busy world, consumers are becoming more and more selective about how they spend their precious time and money.

By Nikolas Löhr

When it’s possible to order any item you can think of to be shipped to you in less than two hours, purchasing something for the sake of it simply doesn’t have the same appeal. This means customers don’t visit bricks-and-mortar destinations for the same reasons that they used to. People don’t just want “things” anymore, they want an experience.

This has presented a complex and challenging problem for developers, investors, and landlords. How do we revitalize shopping centers and make them into destinations? It’s straightforward. Developers need to revolutionize the way a shopping center operates by changing the tenant mix and prioritizing the wants and needs of customers.

The result has been a move away from traditional retail concepts, as developers now understand the importance of “lifestyle destinations.” Reports such as that compiled by StoffelZurich demonstrate these changing priorities. The range of customer services was consistently found to rank as more important than the availability and price of the products.

In line with these changing expectations, food and leisure are becoming increasingly vital to the success of a center. In the past, the standard food and beverage offering would make up three to five percent of a center’s area, with leisure facilities at a much lower or non-existent proportion. This has been steadily increasing.

Freo, for example, recognized the need to adhere to this new model in our project, the Mall of Switzerland. Successful centers need to optimize their services and the key is to balance the mix of retail, gastronomy, and leisure and focus on customer priorities.

This means that we have designed the center to have approximately a third of its total GLA dedicated to food, beverage, and leisure. European centers are also increasingly finding the need for innovation with their leisure offerings.

For example, the Mall of Switzerland will have unique features such as Switzerland’s first indoor surfing wave, its largest IMAX cinema, and a unique children’s day care and play area incorporating Swiss themes, all helping to make the center a “destination” and encourage footfall that would previously have been attracted by retail brands.

Centers now have to have multifaceted appeal. Landlords and developers need to listen to their guests and understand that they want more than just somewhere to spend their hard-earned money, they want somewhere where they can really make the most of their free time.

Health, beauty, and fitness facilities are therefore fast becoming a priority for visitors and we at Freo thought it was important to incorporate a gym/spa into the Mall of Switzerland’s design.

By completely rethinking the mall concept, the outlook for physical shopping centers is increasingly positive. Moving beyond the idea of “consumers” to “guests,” shopping centers can both defend and strengthen their positions and will continue to maintain a strong presence in the market.

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