More than just a shopping center
The current largest shopping center development project in Switzerland is the Mall of Switzerland in Ebikon, near Lucerne. ACROSS wanted to ask Marcel Stoffel, Managing Director of the Swiss Council of Shopping Centers (SCSC), how he views the project and what he sees as the future prospects for the Swiss shopping center industry.
ACROSS: Mr. Stoffel, what opportunities do you see for the Mall of Switzerland in a mature market like Switzerland?
Marcel Stoffel: The Mall of Switzerland is probably one of the last viable projects in Switzerland with such dimensions and scale. This project is also not just another shopping center but rather a leisure experience and shopping destination.
The scale and dimensions, as well as the tenant mix consisting of retail, catering, leisure, and entertainment, are promising and have a correspondingly high chance of success.
ACROSS: What criteria are important for the success of such a destination?
Stoffel: Looking at the global development of leisure and shopping destinations, it is striking that these are strongly focused on the development and changes in retail, consumption patterns, and broader society. The aim is therefore, on the one hand, to design the whole tenant mix as close as possible to the needs of the target group, taking into account societal trends. On the other hand, the place itself has to have such a strong identity that it and its market performance develop very strong attractive power and it is perceived as a “destination.”
ACROSS: That sounds pretty theoretical, can you explain that?
Stoffel: Gladly. Take the Mall of Switzerland as an example. For a long time, people talked up the fact that a center needs one or more “magnetic” anchor stores to function. In most cases in Switzerland, these “anchors” were large grocers. They provide a certain fundamental visitor frequency for the center. That may be sufficient for a center with a local supply function, but a destination such as the Mall of Switzerland needs a coherent overall mix consisting of different uses with synergistic effect.
The overall experience is therefore more important than the individual “anchor.” Pleasure, experiences, and emotions are more important than just “shopping.” You will therefore find offers in the mall that you won’t find in that form in existing centers or even in all of the rest of Switzerland. Examples include Jochen Schweizer’s standing wave and the largest IMAX cinema screen in Switzerland. At the core of the entire project lies Ebisquare, the space around the mall. It serves as a venue for events and as a “3rd place” offering visitors attractive seating.
ACROSS: What other special features does the Mall of Switzerland have to offer?
The mall has forward-looking equipment and extensive services such as toilets on all floors and full wireless coverage within the commercial areas. Online and offline come together here and make multichanneling an experience.
In addition, the mall sets new standards in architecture and design concepts. Harmony and a comfortable atmosphere characterize the mall’s architecture and ensure a homey ambiance. The protruding and recessed store fronts are a novelty in the Swiss shopping mall landscape. They provide a unique high-street experience, similar to a downtown area.
Only with this holistic approach does the whole become more than the sum of its parts. The “Kaleidoscope” approach as it is applied to the Mall of Switzerland brings this very nicely to the point. For retailers and food service companies, the mall therefore provides a stage and platform unique in Switzerland upon which the offers of quality national and international brands complement each other.
ACROSS: What does this development mean for existing centers in Switzerland?
Stoffel: Each center has to define for itself the most appropriate positioning, regardless of its size and location. Whether it’s a local supply center or a leisure and shopping destination, the focus must be on customer needs and differentiation against existing offerings in the market area. Only centers with clear positioning, a unique profile, and relevant added value and customer benefits have a chance for success in the future. The Mall of Switzerland, as Switzerland’s prime “state of the art” shopping and leisure destination, certainly sets very new standards in this regard.
Even viewing the model of the Mall of Switzerland on a visit to its showroom in Root, near Ebikon, shows the dimensions and quality of this project that is so unique in Switzerland.