Once the symbol of American retail strength that was exported across the globe, the mall is seeing a hazy future. As people shop more online and want something different from their downtime, the mall has become a destination that is approached as a last resort rather than a first choice.
There isn’t a great deal to do at the mall other than spend money on goods. Shoppers’ attention spans are short. If you want to grab their attention, then online is the way to do this with low prices and great offers. It feels so easy to order online and get items delivered to home or work. Add in the fear of mall crime from pickpockets, robberies, and assaults, and you have a place that holds no attraction for a growing number of Americans.
Malls are becoming dinosaurs. There is real danger of becoming extinct as the declining numbers of visitors leaves stores unwilling to take vacant units. The future of shopping malls looks bleak in many ways.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The future of offline shopping must look different from the past. Consumers have changed. It is time for the retail industry to change, too. What if we have a mall within a store?
What Is a Mall within a Store?
A mall within a store brings the overall shopping experience into play. People may be shopping online, but expenditure on experiential shopping is growing and looks to be the future of healthy retail. You may be able to get items online from a retailer with much lower overheads, but you can’t get a spa experience, a manicure, a workout at a gym, or the latest juice mix at a juice bar.
The old model was to build a mall, add on a cinema and a few restaurants, and watch the money roll in. Modern retailers need to be smarter than this. People want to feel good about themselves. There is big money spent on wellness today, and this ever-growing market of people with disposable income should be the target market for the “new” retail. Existing brick-and-mortar shopping, for the most part, has become stale and not kept up with the trend for dealing online. This must change and deliver consumers something that they will tell all their friends about.
What Are the Benefits?
People are spending more on themselves. A busy work life and the stresses of balancing the work-life person they want to be means that there is a desire to keep fit, feel great, and follow a better lifestyle. As more baby boomers leave the workplace, they have a lot of disposable income and heaps of time to spend on anything they like. They are conscious of their health and are looking for sound advice.
This is where the mall within a store comes in. It appeals to people who want that experience. While they are in store, they more often than not will spend money there too. It is a win-win for the retailer that can make the most of their space (so many traditional retailers have large stores that are underused) while attracting a loyal audience. In Seth Godin Purple Cow-speak, these are the sneezers who will let the rest of the world know what you are all about.
We are looking at making the future of shopping malls a safe haven for the right audience. People will flock to a location that can provide protection from the weather, a reason to visit, and a variety of experiences. Imagine the whole family of several generations arriving at a mall and each person having a reason to spend time there. Now the mall must move to within the confines of the shop. But the next question is what to do with all the space that has been generated in this move.
What Happens to the Rest of the Mall?
We create some empty space with this concept. The mall within a store can lead to many other aspects of the mall becoming duplicated, then redundant, and then vacant. Obviously, this isn’t the long-term solution to delivering a safe place for people to shop. The solution of what to do with the rest of the mall must come from somewhere.
Other services may fit perfectly into this model and provide people with even more reason to visit the location. Thinking about the auxiliary services (for some, these will primary services). One could imagine using the space to cater to those with pets, which is often a no-no in malls, perhaps providing pet health services or an indoor dog park.
People use a variety of other services on a regular basis. Making the mall a destination in itself will generate more retail foot traffic. Adding other options, such as media stations, financial institutions, health services, education provision, and an indoor play area, will make the mall a more attractive place for the whole family to visit together.
Giving a wide range of reasons to make a visit to the mall, coupled with the experiences that online shopping simply cannot deliver, will make it a destination. Attracting the whole family and catering to pet owners changes the dynamic.
Learn more about the future of shopping malls in “A Mall within a Store?“, which was published in the print magazine in 2017. This excerpt was updated April 15, 2019.