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Retail Therapy: Designing the modern mall

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Design has a higher purpose that goes well beyond creating something that is pretty to look at. When it comes to shopping centres, for example, design is about adapting the environment to our shoppers’ functional, emotional, psychological, and social needs.
Design is what contributes to making the space inside our malls more enjoyable, to create an atmosphere that give us energy and makes our shoppers and retailer partners feel good while adding simplicity, elegance, joy and ergonomics to our lifestyles.
A well designed shopping centre can help people come together as a family, as a group, as a community, and as a society, ultimately satisfying the needs of our shoppers and our retailers.
Core Purpose of Design Innovation
When new malls open, a good design may largely go unnoticed. But build a terribly designed mall and people will have a field day talking about it. After that, good location or not, the bad design will inevitably spell doom for the mall.
The real purpose of a well-designed mall is not only in attracting customers but also by helping to bring customers back.
Chairman Asia-Pacific Board, Broadway Malyan, Jeremy Salmon says, “The core purpose of design for me is differentiation. You give consumers a differentiated experience, a chance of doing and seeing things they haven’t done or seen before.”
Adds Vice President Quest Mall (CESC Properties), Sanjeev Mehra, “The design needs to be functional. We as designers need to know who we’re making the mall for. It needs to nudge the consumer into spending. If the consumer is not comfortable in a mall, they will not spend money.”
Elements of Great Mall Design
Generally speaking, there are three broad design components that all mall designers take into account before getting down to work – site location, market conditions and customer desires. But these are just the main ones. Designers say that there are hundreds of other factors they need to keep in mind when creating a mall.
Founder & CEO, Baaya Design, Shibani Jain, says, “Many community, cultural and social aspects come into play when you are designing a mall. It’s a leisure place, a place to hang out and not just to shop. A designer has to look beyond shopping, has to look at how to engage a person, entice him into spending the whole day at the mall. Engagement could be in the form of an interactive art gallery, a place for the elderly to rest, a kids’ play area etc.”
A most important need that designers need to include is easy movement for everyone, great dining options, cinema halls, places to sit and rest, enough parking, and good lighting just to name a few. Go wrong in one place and it could result in lower footfalls. Fr instance, mothers with small babies may not return to malls that don’t have ramps for strollers or feeding and changing rooms.
Says Marketing Head, Ambuja Realty, Pramod Ranjan Dwivedi, “We aim to delight our consumers. We try and make our malls with an open-and-close concept, a lot of natural light plus water bodies. We have seen that loyalties are built more easily when we give people a chance to interact with nature.”
In a nutshell, addressing customer need is extremely important while designing a mall. A designer must ensure that the entire customer experience is a positive one.
The Inspiration
Today’s consumer wants a comfortable, luxury hotel like experience when he visits a mall. The emphasis is on creature comfort or resort retail. Details like valet parking, multiple entry and exit points, proximity to public transport, concierge – all the amenities that you would find in a luxury resort – are important. So where do mall developers and designers get their inspiration from?
Salmon says, “I tend to find that my inspiration comes from circumstance. It comes from challenges, from innovation. Innovation forces you to take risk and in this risk you find inspiration.”
For some, inspiration comes in the simplest of forms – ensuring that a mall is designed such that it is convenient for everyone.
“Our aim is to build a marketplace and we seriously need to build convenience into our designs so as to convert footfalls into repeat footfalls,” says Director HiLite Builders, MA Mehboob.

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