How Malls Will Survive In The Age Of Amazon


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“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” ~Abraham Lincoln”



JUL 8, 2016, Steve Schaefer ,  FORBES STAFF  If you can put the word markets after it, I cover it.

In 1956, Elvis made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Dow Jones closed for the first time above 500, and a new highly-anticipated indoor shopping center, Southdale Center, opened its doors in Minnesota – revolutionizing the retail consumer experience. Over the next sixty years, more than 1,200 shopping malls opened up in cities across the country quickly becoming destinations. However, just as music has evolved over the past 60 years to meet the needs of new listeners – malls also are changing to meet the needs of discerning consumers.

Despite the sluggish growth of the U.S. economy, the most recent retail sales numbers from May saw an increase of 0.5%, higher than industry forecasts, and building off a 1.3% increase the month prior.

Capturing those gains is a competitive business though. How have malls managed to stay alive despite the undeniably cyclical nature of the retail industry? The success of any mall requires unique experiences, the use of technology and a diverse tenant mix.

Experiences Bring in Consumers

Shopping is no longer only about the transaction. Instead, it is about creating an atmosphere and experience.

A classic example is the concept of taking a family picture with Santa during the holiday season. In 2015, DreamWorks livened up the tradition, featuring Shrek as part of their “Adventure to Santa” holiday experience in a handful of malls. Such installations are a draw for families and a boon for retailers who see more shoppers as a result of the attraction.

Stores have the same unique opportunity. Apple AAPL +0.65% has evolved the Genius Bar into a Genius Grove in their flagship store transforming the location’s support function into a tropical oasis.

Meeting Shoppers on their Smartphones

The best example of technology easing purchases is click and collect – the ability for a consumer to buy something online and pick it up in-store. Most consumers (75 percent, according to the ICSC 2015 holiday survey) who participate in click and collect shopping buy additional goods that were not part of their original purchase once they hit the store.

Overall, e-commerce has enhanced both online and offline retail. Mobileshopping allows malls to capitalize on knowing the location of their consumers. Basics like enhanced WiFi and complex IoT solutions create real time, actionable insights for things like parking and consumer location analytics, allowing malls to be smarter and more connected. Hundreds of malls have rolled out mobile apps developed by Jibestream that offers shoppers turn-by-turn navigation from store to store and directions to their parked car. Additionally retailers like Sephora , one of the first retailers to introduce Apple Pay, features beacon technology, which sends personalized promotions to users’ mobile device while simultaneously collecting consumer data. The beauty chain also has rolled out immersive apps that allow users to virtually try on products.

Creating a Diverse Tenant Mix

New stores and restaurants are utilizing some of the available space previously occupied by the marquee anchor tenants. Many malls now house fitness centers, grocery stores, medical offices and more. Simple concepts like going to dinner and a movie are all housed under one roof, building on the tremendous value of the physical real estate itself.

Malls are customized hubs for their communities, understanding regional demographics is key. It seems most operators have figured this out, as the current occupancy rate across the shopping center industry stands at 93.5%, the highest quarterly reading since 2008.

Tom McGee is president and CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a global trade association focused on retail real estate.




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