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Leisure as a differentiating element

With a case study conducted in Spain, theleisureway shows how a shopping center can become “ideal meeting point”

Leisure has traditionally been perceived as part of the retail offer, to which the shopping center should devote a certain area for cinemas, bowling alleys, games, etc. Nowadays, however, leisure is starting to be perceived from a more strategic point of view: It’s not just about allocating a certain amount of lettable area to leisure, it’s about public zones becoming part of the customers´ journey and part of their experience in the center. This is how the leisure offer acquires a relevant role as a common thread and differentiating element.

In fact, more and more often developers recognize the need to offer something different, tailor-made, and adapted to the environment of the shopping center. The Spanish company theleisureway has been developing this type of concept for years. They pursue a gradual implementation of these new parameters: creating an unrepeatable solution in each center.

The creative and strategic teams of the company work together to offer integral solutions creating a leisure space that adapts to the needs of the center. To achieve this, theleisureway studies the areas to understand them, analyses their particulars, the type of client, the competition and more. Once this first approach is complete and the company determines the center needs, theleisureway develops an idea that fits in each space.


In HOW AN AIRPLANE RAISES VISITOR FREQUENCY theleisureway discussed “The Airplane,” part of a project typology called “leisure flagship”.

In this case, this article analyses a new integral leisure project that the company developed for a shopping center in refurbishment with the objective of updating and improving its leisure offer.

The shopping center is located on the coast in Spain. The leisure offer was scarce and there were various shopping centers nearby in which the leisure model was repeated and they also only offered traditional concepts like cinemas or bowling alleys. The study of the competition thus indicated to theleisureway that there was a great opportunity to increase penetration by offering new leisure experiences. In addition, although there were good leisure options in the city, they were not found in the shopping centers and neither were free.

The company could therefore conclude from the initial analysis, firstly, that the great transformation the shopping center was submerged in was fundamental to consolidating the leisure and retail offer as an integrated experience. Secondly, it could conclude that an original formula for leisure would give the mall a privileged position in its setting due to the nonexistence of high-level competition nearby.

Adding to this that there is a residential area close to this center and that a fairly high percentage of its population is under 15 years old, theleisureway arrived at the conclusion that, with a new and adequate leisure offer, the mall could convert itself into an important entertainment destination in its area.

The shopping center parking turns into a leisure area for the community, extending the experience and providing the best scenario for outdoor terraces. Image: theleisureway
The shopping center parking turns into a leisure area for the community, extending the experience and providing the best scenario for outdoor terraces. Image: theleisureway


Once the particulars of the center were analysed, theleisureway started to create fundamental strategic guidelines, and developed three easy-to-follow guidelines. The first was that the leisure solutions for the shopping center should be public – that is, focused on positioning the mall and boosting general traffic, not on operational income. The second was that it should be based on creating an indoor-outdoor experience for users that integrates with the center focused on establishing a new “green and fresh” feel. Third, it would convert the mall into a “meeting point” for people of different ages and for families.

In addition, the idea was to fuse together our leisure solutions with the objectives of the owners: convert the shopping center into a “ideal meeting point” to increase footfall, market share, and loyalty; grant the mall its own identity through an innovative leisure offer that would complement the retail; and improve customer satisfaction and create “the experience” that they are looking for.

After all this previous work, theleisureway concluded that leisure solutions that would fit in this mall should take advantage of one of the most valuable features in the cost of Spain: the good weather and a lifestyle that has to do with sun and living outdoor. Besides, the leisure offer should be visually attractive, add personality to the center, extend the experience outdoor, be healthy and active (with an important presence of sports), and available to the public for free.

Image: theleisureway
Image: theleisureway


The basic idea was to create a new vertical playground and active sport zone for family and friends to meet. The leisure solution proposed was to create the most unique and innovative vertical playground together with a huge leisure zone for the community with smaller playgrounds, sport courts, slides, nets and an amphitheatre for events. The idea of bringing elements of the urban areas into the center was essential to start making people feel the mall is part of their daily hang-out time. The objective was to attract the people in the area by introducing original activity games and relaxation areas for people to play and meet in a highly developed green area. The company thus integrated the outdoor park with the indoor gallery, extending the shopping mall experience to the outdoor areas.

Image: theleisureway
Image: theleisureway


Trends in the industry focus on mixing retail and leisure to optimize the customer experience. Leisure is the key factor to promote customer socialization by creating enjoyable activities for families and friends to share their spare time. The experts at theleisureway believe that there are opportunities to introduce innovative leisure concepts to complement the retail offer and create an important reference for customers.

In refurbishment as in life, leisure plays an important role. Shopping in a dynamic place, between the noise and the lights, customers need to relax, feel comfortable, and have fun. theleisureway therefore thought that an original vertical playground and active sports zone would make visitors think of the mall as a place to spend their free time; a place they can be a part of.


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