Five Ways your Mall Will Change
Online sales hit 7% of total U.S.
Online sales hit 7% of total U.S. retail sales last year, and Forrester Research predicts that number will reach 8% by 2014. But does that mean shopping malls are brick-and-mortar relics of the past? Hardly.
Across America, malls are reinventing themselves to appeal to busy 21st century shoppers with short attention spans and smartphones. Here are five trends that will change the way you browse the mall.
More Stores. Smaller Stores.
You won’t have to walk as much from store to store anymore. Retailers are downsizing to make more money per square foot. Sprawling anchor stores are giving way to complexes of smaller shopping establishments. Remaining anchors are also renting out space to smaller retailers.
Sears, for example, is turning over 40,000 square feet of one of its stores in California to Forever 21, a clothing retailer. Watch for similar transformations of giant Sears stores in other mall locations.
Edgy Is Good. Distinctive is Better.
Malls today are focusing on adding a greater variety of stores to avoid looking like replicas of each other. Today it just makes shoppers yawn.
The new look will feature stores such as Francesca’s Collections, Accessorize, a British outfit, and Love Culture, described as a “more edgy” fast-fashion store in the mold of Forever 21.
You’ll also see more stores catering directly to tweens -- the 9- to 14-year-olds that love going to malls to get out of the house.
Behold the New Anchor Store
Malls are becoming more utilitarian. That means supermarkets, such as Whole Foods, and home improvement stores such as Home Depot are entering the mix. Some malls are even adding Walmart -- long regarded as the bane of small, local retailers -- to the mix.
That’s making malls more of a must-go for people, boosting overall traffic. More of such combination destinations can help consumers make fewer car trips and conserve on costly gasoline.
Let the Sun Shine In
Making malls less “mally” by creating more open, airy and urban environments is the goal of many developers and designers these days.
A prime example of this new look is Santa Monica Place, which recently reopened with its roof removed and a third-floor dining deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, Calif. In colder climes, more mall owners are installing glass-ceilinged atriums.
The idea is to make the experience more open and expansive than traditional closed-in mall settings. The big question: Will it open consumers' wallets, too?
Say Yes to Tech-Savviness
Mall retailers are embracing Wi-Fi to let customers comparison-shop using their mobile phones and tablet computers as well as at computer-equipped in-mall kiosks.
More and more merchants realize that many customers who compare prices or products on a smart phone or computer stay and buy where they are, saving themselves the hassle of going elsewhere. A customer who has to leave a location to compare prices may never return.
Wet Seal is one company that’s in the vanguard of “social shopping.” This juniors' apparel retailer taps into shoppers' desire to get input from their peers. Using either an iPhone application or an in-store kiosk, customers can see their potential purchases matched to other Wet Seal products -- and then share the results online with friends and others. Other retailers are adopting similar strategies.