Last month two of our brokers, Deana Arden and Judy Niles-Simmons, were featured in an article by NHBR for their work in helping to revitalize the Steeplegate Mall in Concord. This got us reflecting on the ways traditional retail has been changing and, as it continues to migrate online, the ways in which retail properties are either evolving to attract consumers or going extinct.
The Steeplegate Mall is a great example of how brick-and-mortar spaces are changing with the times, as Amazon swallows more and more retail sectors. As retailers like Circuit City, Bon-Ton, and Old Navy move out, Altitude Trampoline Park, Capital City Charter School, ViParty Bounce House, and ZOO Fitness Club move in. A pivot away from being a traditional retail space to, as the article states, a consumer engagement space. A pivot that more and more landlords and retailers are taking as the industry continues to be disrupted.
So how are other shopping centers and strip malls across the country filling the vacant anchor spaces traditionally leased by disappearing retailers, and drawing consumers back in?
One option is indoor virtual reality theme parks.
Legend Heroes Parks, a Singapore-based franchise of indoor virtual reality theme parks, is looking to break into the U.S. market by targeting vacant anchor and sub-anchor spaces at regional malls and strip centers. The parks, which use a combination of technologies, including virtual and augmented reality, to help guests experience a wide range of rides, games and other kinds of entertainment, have the potential to bring millennial's back to the malls and strip centers they’ve ignored in recent years, by offering them something more than just hanging in the food court and browsing the same old stores.
Bringing in businesses, like Legend Heroes Park, aimed at the tech-savvy and fickle millennial generation, can potentially bring those dollars back into the shopping centers they’ve deserted. But what can retail spaces do to attract families?
Fair Oaks Mall in Northern Virginia has found a way to get families through their doors and keep them in their stores longer, and it starts with the holiday season. The mall’s annual Santa’s Flight Academy gives kids an interactive experience set at the North Pole, which culminates in meeting Santa and getting to see their name and photo pop up on a screen showing Santa’s “nice” list. This all takes holiday shopping from a chore done by the parents, to an experience and an event for the whole family.
Avalon, located in Alpharetta, Georgia, expands on this by attracting consumers to its mixed-use shopping center by offering programmed experiences, such as comedy nights, yoga classes, fireworks shows and more. Avalon has built itself around being more than a shopping center. Instead, being a community gathering space focused on not just extending dwell time, but making sure it is time well spent.
It isn’t just the owners of brick-and-mortar retail spaces trying to draw the crowds back to their properties, though. Retail brands are investing in experiences for their shoppers to streamline and enhance the shopping experience from the moment they step through the door.
Lululemon, the yoga-inspired apparel chain, offers yoga classes in its stores as well as relaxation pods where customers can listen to self-guided meditations, presumably as a comedown from that yoga-high. At Whole Foods, customers can take a cooking class and hit the aisles right after to pick-up the ingredients needed to make the dish for their family that night. And, at the House of Vans in London, shoppers can purchase a new pair of hi-tops and immediately try them out at the skate park located below the sales floor.
But experiential retail can be as simple as making the shopping experience more convenient. Like how Nike installed digital lockers at its new store in Los Angeles for customers who wanted to buy their shoes online and pick them up in-store. Or The Home Depot, whose app allows customers to find the exact aisle and bay the product they’re looking for is located in. So they can spend less time wandering and more time working on their projects.
As it becomes easier to buy goods at the push of a button, brick-and-mortar retail needs to invest in new ways to get customers through the door. Experiential retail and consumer engagement spaces are slowly becoming the future of retail, and the best tool to get shoppers away from their screens and back into the stores.