In the third in a trio of articles focused on opportunities in retail property, Darina Kerr, partner in the real estate team at UK law firm Dundas & Wilson, on why shopping centre entertainment must be relevant to the retail offer on display
The car park is packed. The shopping mall is full, but shop tills are quiet and empty. This is the Peppa Pig principle.
Generating footfall does not automatically generate revenue. When it comes to making consumers buy, well-informed shopping centre landlords recognise turning dwell time into sell time can be a tricky balancing act.
Landlords know successful shopping centres need retail tenants with strong turnover. And turnover depends on stores doing what they’re there to do – showcasing desirable products, and then selling as much as they can, as quickly as they can.
The holy grail for all shopping centre stakeholders is not only to attract customers into stores, but to persuade them to spend by creating the right environment. But, when informed consumers can browse virtual shop windows online or at their fingertips using mobile technology, owners and retailers must do all they can to attract consumers into their centres.
So how can shopping centres ensure people still want to walk through their doors, and will part with their cash when they get there? Many landlords and retailers agree the answer is two-fold – firstly, creating an environment which encourages spending – the right ‘spendvironment’ – and secondly, focusing on ‘shoppertainment’.
Successful shopping centres are now those which are destinations in their own right, and which offer a pleasurable experience. Attractions which allow shoppers to enjoy non-shopping activities may mean people view shopping centres less as a means to an end and more as a leisure hub, persuading them to stay longer.
But for some shopping centres, this is a highly ambitious goal. Maximising shopper enjoyment is likely to be more readily achieved by large purpose-built shopping centres than by smaller malls which have often evolved piecemeal from high streets. Centres which lack scale and modernity and which can’t offer consumers something different are likely to be most at risk from customer desertion.
Larger centres can generally offer more variety and have the space and infrastructure to accommodate new wellbeing elements such as beauty spas. Big centres are also likely to have more car parking, and facilities which suit family shoppers like baby changing areas and seating zones. Creating comfort and convenience with an attractive physical environment gives a blank canvas, a ‘spendvironment’, which can be enhanced by ‘shoppertainment’.
If the basic physical environment isn’t already of a high standard, shopping centres may fall at the first hurdle, in which case investing in ‘shoppertainment’ may bring limited returns.
If the basic physical environment is already attractive to shoppers, the right ‘shoppertainment’ can enhance a centre’s pulling power.
‘Shoppertainment’ means quality catering, a multi-screen cinema or a state of the art gym – or it could mean the irresistible charms of Peppa Pig.
‘Shoppertainment’ is not just the retail and leisure mix – it also covers the promotions laid on throughout the year: a new season catwalk, a climbing wall, a surf machine, Santa’s grotto, or a visit from everyone’s favourite pig. Some of these promotional events are clearly designed to incentivise shoppers to buy. Someone searching for an outfit for a big night out may well be inspired to invest in a stylish look put together from various on-site shops, which they’ve seen shimmying down the centre catwalk. Other events, however, such as the opportunity for over-excited toddlers to meet their favourite TV character, may not be directly linked to a centre’s retail offer.
It would be easy to assume turning dwell time into sell time is more easily achievable when shoppers are happy, relaxed and have a sense that shopping, far from being a chore, is a rewarding leisure activity. But too much entertainment, or the wrong type of entertainment, can have an adverse effect. Whilst many promotions and leisure options can attract footfall and increase dwell time as shoppers linger and have fun, there are risks attached. If shoppers don’t shop – if the entertainment is an attraction distraction – then turnover drops.
Owners beware: the last time Peppa Pig visited a shopping centre, there were no spaces left in the car park but retailers’ takings reportedly fell by 14%.
Survival of the slickest?
The current unprecedented pressure on consumers has triggered much debate about whether shopping centres are hot or not. Many people in the industry believe we will see increased polarisation and a trend towards ‘survival of the slickest’.
Shopping centre landlords, as custodians of the service charge paid by retailers and used partly to fund promotions, are tasked with a challenging balancing act. They must focus not only on generating footfall, but on creating conditions which boost spending rather than curtail it.
The most successful centres are likely to be those where shoppertainment enhances the feelgood factor created by an attractive spendvironment, but still encourages customers to shop ‘til they drop – avoiding the perils of the Peppa Pig principle.