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Time for some retail-tainment

Today’s malls – a careful mix of the right tenants, themes and well-planned layout to draw people in and keep them occupied longer

RETAILING these days is more than just about the shopping, it’s a total experience. That means both ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ have to work together to give shoppers that feel-good factor.

This is a far cry from shopping malls of old, which were just clusters of shops and food outlets. There was little thought given to tenant mix, themes or architectural designs. But with the growing sophistication of shoppers, malls had to improve their offerings. Efforts were made to cluster shops (tenant-mixing) to enhance synergy among different retailers and generate the best traffic flow within the complex to derive optimal rental returns.

Mall owners went into retail positioning, tenant-mix planning and theming to draw more shoppers and increase sales opportunity for retailers, which translates to better rental value per retail space.

Junction 8 was among the pioneers that introduced cineplexes and games arcades in shopping centres. Gradually, other services such as fitness, medical and educational centres found their way into malls.

All this was aimed at making shoppers stay longer at the malls. This is evident in the incorporation of libraries in malls, found at Compass Point, Hougang Mall, Lot 1 and Jurong Point. As these malls are located within the heartlands, the presence of libraries enhances their attractiveness to families and students, boosting traffic flow.

Parkway Parade incorporated medical centres. The upmarket Paragon in Orchard Road has spas in its tenant mix that meld with its affluent shoppers’ lifestyles.

Apart from attracting more shoppers, these service trades help mall owners fill the less prime locations.

Other malls such as United Square and Velocity@Novena managed by UOL Group have resorted to theming as their selling point. United Square, which was relaunched in 2002, themed itself as a ‘kids’ learning mall’ since the mall owner saw an unmet demand for children’s education/enrichment facilities. About 55 per cent of its tenant mix caters to kids with another 15 per cent for F&B. This proved to be a great success as rentals increased by 38 per cent after the revamp and shopper count rose considerably.

Velocity@Novena Square is Singapore’s first sports and active lifestyle mall. Its anchor tenant is California Fitness Jacky Chan Sports, occupying three floors of about 27,000 sq ft. Sports mix takes up close to 40 per cent of the 170,000 sq ft mall, with F&B taking up another 30 per cent.

More than just a place for sports goods shopping, Velocity is becoming a favourite venue for sports events. The 2005 Sea Games flag-off, skating performances curling demonstration and the recent NBA Madness Asian Tour 2007 were just some of the events held at the mall. Since the revamp, rentals have jumped by more than 30 per cent.

Funan DigitaLife Mall started as a general shopping centre but it gradually attracted a critical mass of electronic and IT retailers as tenants. It has since established its niche as an IT mall, and was refurbished twice – in 1992 and 2005 – to meet shoppers’ demand.

Themed malls came to Orchard Road in 1996 with the opening of The Heeren Shops. Tenanted by lifestyle shops with unique product offerings, it has HMV as its anchor tenant. In 1997, the movie-themed Cathay Cineleisure Orchard opened. Aside from movie halls, its tenants offer entertainment and leisure activities, social clubs and dining.

Of late, as consumers pay more attention to health and wellness, we saw fitness and wellness centres setting up at malls, such as True Yoga at Pacific Plaza, California Fitness Centre at Bugis Junction, and Planet Fitness at VivoCity.

Retail has evolved from its traditional role of buying and selling to a lifestyle event. As lifestyle is an experience, it is dynamic and ever-evolving. Mall owners not only update a mall’s tenant mix, they likewise organise activities to enhance the shoppers’ experience.

The latest trend seen is the integration of a retail mall with other land uses to enhance the entertainment and lifestyle portion of shopping. The Singapore Flyer is one such development. It comprises a retail building, a 400-seat theatre and the Giant Observation Wheel. The soon-to-be-developed Sports Hub is another project that incorporates multiple uses, namely, sports, entertainment and lifestyle. Aside from the sporting facilities, leisure and commercial developments will be incorporated to drive mall traffic on event and non-event days alike.

As its name suggests, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort integrates all types of uses, namely, hotel, convention centre, casino and theatre. They complement each other to derive optimal benefits, targetting mainly the conventions business.

In this highly competitive environment, change is a certainty. We may not have the world’s largest nor tallest malls, but we can challenge ourselves to create the most innovative retail-lifestyle malls.

Why not have a retail-lifestyle mall amid nature? For instance, the Kranji countryside offers art galleries, pottery and woodwork. It also retails organically grown vegetables and plants. This amalgamation can be a new retaillifestyle mall, except that all the tenants are not housed under one roof but linearly located amid nature. This venue is ideal for families and nature-lovers as it offers a different shopping ambience.

Instead of just having souvenir shops within zoos, bird parks and botanical gardens, why not turn them into retaillifestyle malls? It is important, however, that such malls be aptly sized, with a critical mass of at least 50,000 sq ft to attract shoppers.

These malls will then become a destination for shopping, entertainment and interaction, with each ‘retail-tainment’ destination having its own distinct identity and selling point.


Source: Business Times 27 Sept 07

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