The average lifespan of a retail mall design globally is about seven years, and probably shrinking. That means that shopping centers built before 2004 probably don’t provide the amenities and shopping environment or international fashion brands younger, more affluent consumers are seeking.
There are six factors that affect a mall’s success: comfort, diversity, luxury, mall essence, entertainment and convenience. These factors match up well with the criteria we at tvsdesign use when identifying needed renovations for malls that are beginning to show their age.
Early malls designed to create the most retail space with the least cost. Traffic flow was constricted, with a single entrance/exit and crowded, dead-end corridors. Only the occasional hard bench was provided to allow shoppers some rest.
Modern mall design focuses on the consumer first, because uncomfortable consumers mean fewer footfalls and declining business. Forward-thinking mall developer Westfield Group worked with tvsdesign to develop a comprehensive amenities package for the furniture, area rugs and accessories in its 57 U.S. retail centres’ common areas. Large open areas with comfortable soft furniture and decorative touches transform a day at the mall into a relaxing, pleasurable experience.
Historically, shoppers seeking a specific product or category were forced to search the mall for their items – a tiring, frustrating experience. Malls today view diversity differently – not just a very wide variety of retailers, but a planned selection of retailers organized to provide convenient shopper access.
The new North Country Mall in Punjab is a great example. North Country Mall vertically “stacks” different price points and merchandise zones on different levels – a practice seldom seen in Western malls that permits a broader retail selection on a smaller geographic footprint.
Newer malls strive to create a luxury hotel ambience for shoppers. At tvsdesign we call this “resort retail,” with an emphasis on creature comfort and providing a hospitality experience with the same kind of amenities you’d find at a fine resort. Social gathering areas and services like concierge and a VIP arrival area help create this resort ambience.
4. Mall Essence
Mall essence is harder to define, but it boils down to branding the retail environment and the shopping experience. Consumers are seeking a shopping experience that makes them feel comfortable, encourages them to stay longer and, more importantly, persuades them to return. New malls can meet or exceed these needs and consumer expectations by creating iconic “shoppertainment” locations.
We at tvsdesign call this “placemaking.” Placemaking means crafting a relaxed environment that allows consumers to take home a memorable experience – one that they want to experience again and again. And that includes almost every element of the mall – retailer selection, mall design, dining options and amenities.
Entertainment is one of the elements in placemaking, and it applies to every aspect of the mall that encourages shopper enjoyment. Areas for local community celebrations and festivals, among them an outdoor plaza, amphitheatre, and outdoor food court terrace — are all planned as social gathering places.
Mall dining areas are another essential feature of 21st century malls, and should be more than just “fuelling areas.” Plaza Egaña in Santiago, Chile, has restaurants on the roof of the mall that offer great views and open space. Together with a multi-screen cinema, an IMAX theatre, a food court and a jazz club, they help create a powerful entertainment destination.
Convenience covers a number of aspects of mall design. Is the facility close to public transportation, and can that be incorporated into the design, as Plaza Egaña has? Is sufficient parking available to accommodate a busy shopping day? Does that parking area support multiple entry points to avoid crowding and congestion? Does the array of retailers match the needs of local shoppers?
To sum it all up, what makes modern malls attractive to shoppers is not helpful to the manager of a mall that is in need of updating. What is helpful is an understanding of the techniques and design strategies that can convert an undifferentiated, unattractive mall into a shopper-friendly destination.