Who’s taking over those empty spaces in shopping malls?

shopping malls

Picture yourself doing yoga in a store space in your local shopping mall or even attending lectures at a private college that has just taken over the space once occupied by a shuttered department store?

That’s what’s happening in the USA, according to an article in the IFA Franchise Brief newsletter.  Residents in Middletown, N.Y., might have lost one of the 80 Sears department stores that closed in recent years, but in its place is Gold’s Gym, capitalising on the vast amount of space where they can operate a full-amenity fitness club offering perks like group fitness classes, smoothie bars and saunas – making it a destination for existing and future clients.

In the United Kingdom, government is considering setting funding aside for the redevelopment of derelict shopping centres into housing. Although these trends are happening in the USA, it is not so far-fetched and could well happen here in South Africa where there is a proliferation of new malls all targeting the same market but struggling to attract foot traffic. It then becomes logical that traders become concerned when department stores close their doors and even more disconcerting when smaller businesses shy away from opening businesses in malls because of the prohibitively high rentals.

With South Africa having the 6th most shopping centre space in the world and being sub-Saharan Africa’s most saturated retail market, progressive malls are already starting to re-invent themselves to become lifestyle and event destinations by introducing pop-up shops and activations, including:

  • Making shopping more interactive with concept stores that mix goods, design and social channels and allow shoppers to try out the latest electronic gadgets and gizmos.
  • Pop-up shops within malls offering new and exciting products that need testing or that sell seasonal novelty items add a sense of the unexpected and encourage shoppers to visit more often to see what’s new and happening.
  • Bringing niche, speciality or artisanal food and craft markets into mall spaces adds another dimension to the shopping experience, attracting new customers and keeping customers in the aisles and in the shops for longer.
  • Using malls to launch new products or to meet celebrities who endorse products is becoming popular – as was the case when Pharrell Williams hosted a meet and greet at Sandton City to promote the launch of his clothing line in collaboration with Adidas. Even world-renowned Cirque du Soleil featured a cameo of its new show in a mall in Toronto.
  • Many malls have become a destination hub for family fun – with children’s play areas, video game arcades, bowling alleys & adventure rides to give customers a reason to make a visit to their mall and a reason to stay.
  • Mall culture is the upcoming trend to expand the shopping experience by hosting art and culture exhibitions in shopping malls as a promotional strategy.  Whether it’s an art exhibition, an antiques fair or fashion shows, malls are fast becoming destinations for new and exciting events.
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