Retail is undergoing seismic change
The future of retail is a return to village life of the past – with a modern twist
It’s more than just shopping… we’re providing the stage for memorable experiences and Instagrammable moments
For many decades, establishing the right retail mix for a new shopping destination was a pretty formulaic affair. Roughly two-thirds of the available space was dedicated to retail, anchored by one or two major retailers. The remaining space was rounded out with food and beverage offers, usually circling a seated food court with little to no natural light, and a loose relationship with the concept of ‘ambience’. Now, thanks to the changing tastes and elevated expectations of a new generation of customers, this formula is no longer enough to guarantee successful centre performance.
Today’s consumers may turn to the internet for shopping convenience. However, for social connection and lifestyle experiences they seek out ‘brick and mortar’ developments where multiple experiences can be found. Increasingly, those places are retail centres that creatively marry civic and social uses, as well as entertainment and recreation; a new breed of destination that’s a far cry from the traditional mall of the past.
In our work as developers of some of the country’s newest crop of retail destinations, we’ve identified what we think are six of the most important considerations for future centre design. Together, these ‘must-haves’ go a long way to establishing a new formula for creating memorable places that people love to connect and spend time in.
In a country as blessed with good climate as Australia, there’s a surprising dearth of centres that make smart use of the outdoors. As shopping behaviours have changed, the old paradigm of visiting a big air-conditioned, box-shaped, synthetically illuminated mall is less and less appealing.
New centres are now being developed that eschew this style completely, opting instead for piazza-style or ‘village-green spaces’ that encourage a central meeting place as well as opening up the centre to an abundance of natural light. In built-up areas, where space may be at a premium, consider rooftop terraces, al-fresco dining, and quirky laneway’s linking courtyards.
At Burwood Brickworks, a new retail centre we’re developing in Melbourne, this idea is being realised with a rooftop Urban Farm which will allow shoppers to take time out, eat drink and be educated amongst a vibrant, green, working farm – the first of its kind in Australia.
The key to making this indoor / outdoor activation work is a committed approach to sustainable biophilic design. Indoor and outdoor landscaping, a community connection to nature, use of non-toxic materials, light and space, recuperative zones and sensory variability are all elements of the approach. You can see examples of this approach at several Frasers Property retail centres around the country, including the use of vertical gardens at Central Park in Sydney; recycled materials and indoor biodiversity at 6 Star Green Star rated The Ponds shopping centre, and naturally ventilated malls at Shell Cove.
Shopping centre food courts have traditionally focused on fast, convenient food. ‘Eat quickly so you can get back to the stores’ seems to have been the guiding philosophy. What’s been lacking is a place to linger comfortably with a friend over a coffee or a wine or a great meal.
We’re not suggesting there’s no place for the big chains in the retail centre of the future, but favour inclusion of a mix of offers including table-service restaurants, cafes, and bars - especially those that are run by local people and emphasise local produce. The emergence of large upscale hospitality groups – often anchored by a celebrity chef – provide terrific partnership opportunities. Also, returning to the theme of our first ‘must-have’: clever design incorporating indoor/outdoor spaces in cafes and restaurants, creates wonderful ambience, buzz and interest.
Speaking of buzz, centre design has to be thoughtful so that patrons don’t have to walk through an empty shopping centre in the after-retail hours to get to the restaurants or the cinemas. Centre operators who concentrate on programming for these after-retail hours with live music, street performances, night markets, and seasonal pop-ups will go a long way to creating a place with a genuine buzz both day and night.
The successful new retail centre is really a ‘retailtainment’ centre. A place that’s fun and engaging enough to be the focal point of many new customer memories and Instagrammable moments. Deliver a mix of unique, bragworthy experiences and entertainment that could include premium-class cinemas, games and amusements, ten pin bowling, ice skating, local theatre, art gallery and musicians, even branded retail pop ups with strong experiential focus.
Partnering with the right providers and striking the balance that appeals to your centre demographic is critical, of course. Questions to be considered are: how will you fund these additional retailtainment offers? What’s the right balance between partnerships with local? Specialist providers versus known national brands? What are the operational considerations for running the centre? And does your leasing strategy need to be broadened to find retailers who also provide experience/entertainment?
The retail precincts that work best are those that are designed to cater for multiple modes of transport – including drive-and-park, ride-sharing, taxi services, bike-riding and public transport. Aside from the obvious benefits of alleviating congestion and parking, centres that are designed to provide more than just traditional drive-and-park encourage a diversity of people to the centre, often serving a greater catchment and generally making it easier and safer for visitors to enjoy bars, restaurants and other evening entertainment.
To sum up much of what has been said above, the successful retail centre of the future will likely be mixed-use in every sense. Supporting the social, cultural, residential and retail needs of its users. In essence, it will become the lifestyle hub for local people – enabling them to shop with convenience, access health and childcare services, go to the gym, enjoy a meal with friends, see a film or catch a local band and even borrow a book from the local library.
In many ways, the future retail centre will function more like the village of the past – where much more than shopping is on offer all in one location, and where social connections are the glue that binds it all together.
Mixed-use design incorporating a range of these features, plus hotels, marinas, bars, and conference facilities have been detailed in our plans for retail sites at Burwood Brickworks, The Waterfront, Shell Cove, Mambourin, Central Park and Ed.Square, just to name a few.
The changes happening in the retail space are seismic, but critical to the success of the sector for decades to come. It’s all about creating places that are multi-functional and integral to the fabric of people’s lives – not just a place to shop.
Before finalising your retail centre design, it’s vital to understand how these shifts affect your customer catchment. Who are you competing against for their time and visitation? Is it other shopping destinations, or does it include entertainment chains, hospitality venues, sports, and theme parks? What impacts will mixed-use and retailtainment have on your seasonal retail calendar? Christmas may remain as the biggest retail time of year, but what other opportunities can you activate throughout the year to maximise footfall?
We’ve identified what we believe to be six important considerations for future retail design, but you may have others. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Our world-class retail shopping centres are designed with people at the centre.
Executive General Manager - Retail
Leading the fastest growing Division within FPA, Peri’s role is underpinned by a focus on mixed-use precincts and the neighbourhood retail sector. Prior to joining FPA in 2008, Peri held senior property roles at Coles
General Manager - Assets
Felicity has over 15 years management experience, including 10 years in retail and mixed-use property management.
Jack Davis is a Development Manager responsible for new retail and mixed use development opportunities, having worked on projects in VIC and WA at Frasers Property Australia. With an interest in destination and experienced based retail centres and a desire for innovation in design and sustainability, Jack is currently leading a team striving for the title of 'The World's Most Sustainable Retail Centre' on the Burwood Brickworks development. Jack holds a BA Property & Construction and a BA Commerce, majoring in Finance and has a strong background in development, delivery and stakeholder management on large and medium scale projects within the retail and commercial sectors.