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credit: Zimpfer_Photography, MK Illumination
credit: Zimpfer_Photography, MK Illumination

Synergies Between Retail And Hospitality: Exploring Shopping Tourism And The Rise Of Retailtainment

In recent years, the intertwining of retail and hospitality has emerged as a crucial factor in the attractiveness of destinations. By integrating shopping opportunities with accommodation options, innovative concepts are created that offer unique experiences for tourists and locals. Thomas Mark, President of MK Illumination, explains how recent developments have set new standards for retailtainment.

Shopping tourism is steadily growing, providing travelers with cultural landmarks and diverse shopping experiences. The burgeoning trend of retailtainment expands traditional shopping by incorporating interactive and entertaining elements. The mixed-use hotels and shopping malls offer numerous benefits and enhance the appeal of urban spaces. Moreover, MK Illumination sets new standards in retailtainment by transforming shopping centers into radiant experience worlds.

Shopping Tourism: A Growth Industry

Shopping tourism has long become a significant economic sector, revitalizing both the retail and hospitality industries. Tourists increasingly seek comprehensive experiences that combine shopping with leisure activities. Cities like Paris, Milan, and New York are classic examples of destinations benefiting from this development. However, this trend is also rapidly growing in Germany. Cities such as Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg attract shopping tourists from around the world, who not only enjoy the cultural landmarks but also the diverse shopping opportunities.


A central trend in the combination of retail and hospitality is retailtainment, a fusion of shopping and entertainment. This concept goes beyond shopping, offering customers interactive, entertaining, and often unique experiences. Examples include theme parks in shopping malls, live events, interactive exhibitions, and gastronomic experiences that enhance traditional shopping, turning it into an all-day experience.

Mixed-Use: Hotels And Shopping Malls

Another critical aspect of the synergies between retail and hospitality is the mixed-use of properties, particularly the integration of hotels in shopping malls. This type of use offers numerous advantages: for retailers, it means a constant customer base, while hotels can provide their guests with the convenience of nearby shopping opportunities. These synergies lead to a win-win situation for both industries, enhancing the overall attractiveness of the destination.

MK Illumination: Retailtainment Through Light Installations

Another aspect that strengthens the synergies between retail and hospitality is the retailtainment concept implemented by MK Illumination. Shopping centers are increasingly becoming radiant experience worlds where shopping takes a back seat, and the associated experience and emotions come to the fore. Modern lighting concepts and emotional stories transform even long-established shopping centers into impressive “places to be,” continually delighting customers.

Studies indicate that locations and retail properties offering consumers a contemporary shopping experience, atmosphere, and service are more resilient to changing shopping habits. The challenge lies in positioning against the rapidly growing online trade. Emotions and the social aspect must be increasingly conveyed, as shopping is a leisure activity with a demand for entertainment. It is a lasting experience shared among friends and on social media.

“In the past, ‘silent’ would have been an attribute reserved for Christmas. But visually, shopping centers in Germany are now shifting a gear louder,” says Thomas Mark, President of MK Illumination, a market leader in festive decorative lighting. Christmas shines according to the marketing concept of a shopping center. When thousands of light points make eyes sparkle, they are part of a story that evokes emotions.

Collaborating with ECE, MK Illumination created a
unique lighting concept at Limbecker Platz in Essen. /// credit: Zimpfer_Photography/MK Illumination
In the “Höfe am Brühl” in Leipzig, a tailormade concept emphasizes classical music’s historical significance. /// credit: MK Illumination

“In customer briefings, individuality and the wow effect are almost always demanded,” describes Thomas Mark at the beginning of the exchange process with the customer. “That’s why we work closely with our design teams and clients locally.” However, light stimuli and images can quickly lead to saturation. “The trend in our design work is towards interactivity and entertainment. Therefore, we are constantly challenged to create collective emotionalization.”

In some shopping centers in Germany, traditional motifs prevail, while in others, innovative ones lead. “It all depends on the center’s philosophy and the planned marketing concept,” explains Mark.

In the “Höfe am Brühl” center in Leipzig, a bespoke concept highlights the historical significance of classical music dedicated to legendary composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Edvard Grieg, Gustav Mahler, Clara and Robert Schumann, and Richard Wagner. The project´s highlight is a musical interaction: when someone plays the piano keys, not only do melodious sounds fill the air, but an oversized Christmas tree is also animated — a unique interplay of music and art in a public space.

Furthermore, a unique lighting concept has been created in collaboration with ECE at Limbecker Platz in Essen. The concept “A Heart for the Ruhr Area” is more than just festive lighting — it is an homage to this region’s unique identity, closely tied to coal mining and industrial history. “The close collaboration with ECE allowed us to realize a concept that is not only aesthetically appealing but also tells a story,” says Thomas Mark, President of MK Illumination.

The synergies between retail and hospitality open up numerous opportunities for destinations worldwide. By combining shopping opportunities with accommodation options, added value is created for travelers and the local economy. The trend of retailtainment and the mixed-use of hotels and shopping malls are key elements driving this development. MK Illumination complements this picture with stunning light installations, transforming shopping centers into radiant retailtainment, creating emotional, interactive experiences that continually attract and delight customers.


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