People have been predicting the death of shopping centres for a very long time. In fact, when Sphere first opened in 1998, Time Magazine ran a front cover story titled, “Kiss your mall goodbye”. Back then, the perceived threat was the rise of online shopping. 23 years later and it’s the pandemic that’s predicted to bring their demise. However, once again, I believe shopping centres will prove harder to kill than the bad guy in a horror movie.
Let’s consider what happened after the other big global pandemic – Spanish flu in 1918. That tough period was followed by the roaring 20s, where people reemerged with a desire to celebrate, socialise and indulge. I believe history will repeat. Rather than the pandemic being the death of shopping centres, it could actually be the start of a new boom time. Here are some trends that I expect to see play out.
Entertainment at the heart
The best shopping centres will continue to evolve and become more like an entertainment complex. Crown Casino is a good example of an entertainment complex with a strong shopping precinct in and around it. Of course, not all shopping centres will be as big as Crown. In fact, I think that most will scale down a little and feature stronger entertainment offerings. When you put entertainment, food and shopping together, you’ve got a great social offering, and that’s something that people will be yearning for. The centres that can provide unique and desirable experiences will be the big winners.
Small footprint showrooms
Retailers will also evolve with the times. We will increasingly see smaller stores that essentially only have display stock, allowing retailers to display their entire range in a small space. Customers can come in, see and touch the products and then order them to be delivered to their home, capitalising on the fact that consumers are now comfortable getting shopping delivered. Some of these small stores may also have special offerings to draw people in, such as appointments for personal style advice.
Digital gets physical
While we hear a lot about brands taking a more digital focus, I believe the reverse will also increasingly occur, with previously online only brands starting to open retail stores. For example, one of our Malaysian clients, Pop Meals, started out as a digital-only food delivery brand and has since made the decision to open physical restaurants. For them, the move offered many advantages, such as creating additional brand exposure and reaching a new audience that may have been hesitant to order on the app (so the stores essentially become an onboarding tool).
Many successful shopping centres will be the ones that work hardest to become part of the local community. Hosting unique region-specific events like local art shows will help make the shopping centre more of a destination and build loyalty within a community.
What do you think the future holds for shopping centres? In 20 years’ time, will they have disappeared like video stores or will they prove resilient? Personally, I suspect we’ll still be reading articles predicting their demise for many, many years to come.Write a comment