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Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh Malls, Where Art Thy Retail Experiences?

Doha-Mall originally uploaded by knightoyo.
From previous posts you may recall that mall construction is down and being replaced with 'lifestyle centers.'

However, per Knowledge@Wharton's The Mall Pall: Have America's Biggest Shopping Centers Lost Their Allure?, the most recent Verde Group study on customer dissatisfaction indicates that neither the traditional mall nor the new lifestyle format thrills shoppers. Are you surprised? I'm not.

Here are the complaints: "consumers are aggravated and uninspired by the sameness and predictability of shopping malls."

Furthermore, "the two most frequent complaints cited in the survey are first, a lack of anything new or exciting at the mall and second, a limited selection of restaurants. These criticisms were each cited by 35% of those surveyed. The third most-mentioned problem, cited by 28% of respondents, was that too many of the stores carry the same merchandise. Parking was the fourth most frequently mentioned problem, with 25% of shoppers experiencing trouble in mall parking lots. While mentioned less frequently than sameness as a problem, survey respondents told researchers they feel parking is the most serious problem they face on a visit to the mall."

This goes for traditional and open-air lifestyle centers.

Imagine, shoppers all around aren't inspired by the sameness of choices available. They regret the lack of a sense of discovery. Does it bring to mind some of what I discussed in Consumer Choices And The Retail Experience?

Note the comments about comfort and cleanliness. Please, make sure your bathrooms are spotless!

Interesting to note the observations relating to loyalty and how much time is spent: "those who spend more than two hours in a mall are more loyal, visit the most stores, report a better shopping experience and spend more money."

Note, too, the information relating to shopper gender differences: "Men say they experience more problems than women, have more trouble parking and finding their way around the mall, and are more turned off by the sameness of malls than women. But while men have more problems, women are more likely to tell others about it. Working women were more dissatisfied than other women with malls, complaining about a poor selection of restaurants, and a lack of interesting shops and special events."

What that reinforces is that meeting the higher standards and better articulated needs of women shoppers serves a dual purpose by also satisfying the needs of men shoppers.

Extrapolating from this research to apply to individual retail stores, I suggest looking at common areas. Are there ways to collaborate with other retailers to create common spaces for events, thereby drawing in shoppers to relax and interact with? What about showcasing product in combination or juxtaposed with unexpected items? Say carpet with shoes and handbags?

Another suggestion states that "malls create more environmental, educational and entertainment programming." I consider this an area of exciting opportunity. If consumers are to be enticed away from their homes and other activities, what better way to do so than by developing programs and activities that rise above simple purchases? Imagine creating a forum for discussing how to help eradicate poverty in the community, or expose children to visual and performing art?

What other thoughts come to mind that would help re-inject discovery and adventure into the retail shopping experience?

Previous posts relating to malls and the retail experience:
+ Atlanta's Atlantic Station - A Lifestyle Center
+ An Architect's View of Better LifeStyle Centers
+ Southlake Town Square - A Lifestyle Center
+ Authenticity At Retail
+ A. Alfred Taubman: Overcoming Threshold Resistance
+ Book Review: Threshold Resistance by A. Alfred Taubman

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