Retail Reset

Digital disruption is growing, But so is the motivation of shopping centres and their retailers to boost consumer engagement in new ways.

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Mayfair’s 100,000 sq.ft. expansion will welcome new stores to the shopping centre, including Saje Natural Wellness (pictured above) and Indigo. Photograph by Belle White

To stay relevant in a world increasingly skewed to e-com, shopping centres and their retailers are bridging the gap between in-store and online shopping with new ways to attract and keep customers.

The move is showing up with m-commerce (mobile commerce) and direct-to-consumer apps that allow brands to capture customers’ attention, both online and in store.

Mayfair Shopping Centre GM Laura Poland says its retailers are incorporating technologies that mimic online shopping, because when it comes to finding and paying for products, in-store shoppers expect the ease and facility of the online experience.

To further attract and hold customer interest, shopping centre retailers are also focusing on creating what, in retail speak, are called consumer engagement spaces.

“What we’re seeing now locally, and in North America, is really just the start of what we expect to be a very fast evolution of the retail industry,” says Poland, who quarterbacked Mayfair Mall’s recent $72-million overhaul.

“Customers want a unique experience, ultimate convenience, and personalization,” she says, pointing to the men’s and boys’ skateboard and clothing store West 49, which is adding skateboard facilities inside their spaces in larger centres to increase “dwell time”
and build loyalty.”

Along with seeing and trying products in-store, consumers will soon also be able to pay at an automated kiosk and have their purchases shipped directly to their homes. Text-ahead reservations will be common to avoid line-ups at service-based stores — and in-store WiFi, selfie stations and refreshments will be popular.

Darlene Hollstein, GM at The Bay Centre, points to the in-store tea service provided by Michel Negrin at its new store at the shopping centre.

“It used to fall on … shopping centres to provide that experience when you walked through the doors,” says Hollstein. “We could control the common areas, do events, attract new customers and drive that traffic, but we can’t fully embrace what experience [consumers] have in the store — that’s up to the brand to do. So to see them following suit and listening to consumers is just wonderful.”  

By the Numbers

Canadian shopping centre growth has remained flat, but stable, at 1.7%. Falling behind Asia at 5.4% and Europe at 2.7% but ahead of the U.S. at 0.4%
For the first time in history, the consumer market includes 6 generations of shoppers.
The average retail square footage per person in Canada is 16.8 sq. ft. In the U.K., the average is 5 sq. ft., and in the U.S. it’s 23.5 sq. ft., which experts consider to be “vastly over-stored.”

This article is from the October/November 2018 issue of Douglas