Lifestyle Centres?

Last weekend, my Sunday morning began the same way it always does; an unbelievable amount of scrambled eggs, coffee and a discussion with my partner over how we’re going to spend the day. With torrential rain and dashed hopes of a BBQ now that the measly week-long British Summer is over, it was decided that we should head to intu Trafford Centre to peruse the shops, have dinner and see a film.

Working within Shopping Centre Management and Marketing Recruitment, I have been robbed of the ability to mindlessly wander shopping centres. Oh no, I’m considering the tenant mix, analysing the mall commercialisation and observing other visitors! This time, reflecting on the reasons for my own visit made me think about the way that we utilise shopping centres in 2016 as my partner and I hadn’t purely come to shop. We firmly intended to spend time at the ‘The Orient’ and the centre’s ‘Great Hall’; home to an array of fast food restaurants and casual dining spaces alongside a 20-screen ODEON cinema, Laser Quest and rock climbing venue and entertainment arcade.

In previous articles, both colleagues and I have analysed the rise of omni-channel retailing which has, in turn, ‘changed the way consumers engage with both local community hubs and out of town retail places’. The changing face of the retail landscape has caused shopping centre landlords to evaluate how they entice consumers into their centres and how they enhance the guest experience and increase dwell time. A key tool in the battle to remain relevant is to cultivate a strong tenant mix of which food & beverage and leisure is fast becoming a dominant presence.

No longer is food for fuel within shopping centres, ‘F&B adds to the overall experience of the centre and helps to build engagement and loyalty’.

With a 39% increase in turnover since 2010, the restaurant sector is growing and this is further amplified by changes in consumer behaviour and our growing preference for dining out. More interestingly, data suggests that there is a increasing disregard for traditional mealtimes which further stresses the importance of a considered and varied F&B offering within shopping centres of fast food, healthy pick me ups and other casual and fine dining options.

However, a rounded ‘lifestyle’ experience cannot be achieved through retail and F&B alone. Savvy landlords have embraced a quality and not quantity approach to leisure operators. Carefully considered placements of cinemas, bowling alleys, amusement arcades or, in the case of intu Trafford Centre, more adventurous destinations such as Sea Life and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, have served to extend the usual trading hours beyond that of the retail stores and create spaces for families to enjoy into the late evening.

With a dwell time of 86% longer than those who did not dine or drink on their shopping trip, the industry is listening and this is further evidenced by the exciting plethora of ongoing and planned re-development works of both community and destination shopping centre schemes.

Shopping Centre? Or Lifestyle Centre? The retail landscape is rapidly changing and successful shopping centres will stagnate if they do not diversify from being only shopping destinations. ‘They need to be experience centres, but also many other types of experiences such as entertainment, education, sports and dining’. 

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