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What Makes a Successful Shopping Mall?

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Shopping malls have become the most common form of shopping places. They have deeply influenced civic life across the globe. Although a bit late, India is seeing a huge shift from high street to a mall-based retail culture.

Developing a mall is very capital intensive. The time from concept to completion is long, especially in a country like India, where rules for this building type do not exist as yet. The impact on the community is huge. So, it becomes essential that the mall becomes successful for all the stakeholders. Design and the design team play a very crucial role in making the mall successful for its stakeholders. This is more so in India because of the nascence of the building type.

Alfred Taubman, the pioneer of the modern shopping mall concept, said that although there are a number of factors that make a shopping mall successful, all design must aim to remove every barrier between the customer and the merchandise. He called this barrier ‘Threshold Resistance’. If we remove this barrier, all selling becomes easier and more profitable. According to Taubman, architecture was just the beginning – the foundation – of this all-important process.
As already discussed, malls are hugely capital intensive and have long gestation periods. The design team, thus, needs to be constantly creative, patient and persistent – from concept to completion. Many times, the commissioning agency is not necessarily the end user. The design team must be aware of all parties involved in the design and development process and cater to their respective requirements.

For whom is the success of a shopping mall most important?

Developers: In India, the manner in which the various stakeholders generate income from the project may be different for each – perhaps by rentals, perhaps by revenue sharing, perhaps by investment. Indian malls have revenue sharing models for food courts, parking facilities and multiplexes.

It is imperative that the design team understands these various parties and revenue-generating models. Design is influenced by these and vice versa.

Tenants: Tenants are largely divided into anchor tenants and vanilla stores. Anchors include big format retailers, multiplexes, food courts, large specialty stores and the like. Design teams satisfy tenant requirements by considering the following: parking grids, shop depths, location, zoning of tenants, floor-to-floor heights, services access, floor loading, connectivity between floors, accessibility, waste management and building maintenance. Good shopping mall shapes and layouts are designed so that consumers reach as many of the retailers as possible.

Mall marketing teams and designers segment customers by gender, age and price-points. Recent customer segmentation is by life stages and individual focus groups. New shopping centres are addressing these needs. The shopper wants an individualistic personalised experience and is more discerning than ever.

Customers also want variety, diversity, comfort comprehensiveness, convenience, safety (from traffic), security, ambiance, parking and ease of access. Malls that provide all of the above attract more shoppers and increase their stay time.

It is essential to understand the specific demands of all stakeholders. Developers need revenue, which comes from customers shopping. Customers shop where they have good tenants and a comfortable pleasing atmosphere – both of which a developer can create and choose. For all stakeholders, six factors affect a mall’s design. These are: convenience, exhaustiveness, luxury, mall concept, entertainment, and comfort.

The average life span of a mall is about seven years globally. This figure is shrinking, which means mall design at the present state is unable to meet customer expectations. So, shoppers are voting with their feet and seeking a better experience elsewhere – perhaps online or in other retail formats. The mall needs to reinvent and know its customer and market in and out, if it wants to succeed.

About the Author:
Anshuman Bhargava is Director and Creative Head (Interiors) of The Blue Leaves Design Group.

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