What landlords assume about retailers

Dubai-mallThe future of the mall is an oft-debated topic with much bloviation from a variety of sources. Jon Bird, long time friend of this publication, has written a nice piece for Forbes on the topic - and expresses the view that malls will be around for a long time yet. I have said the same thing here on IR about a year ago.

Central to the idea that malls will prosper into the future, is the assumption that malls can and will function as ‘marketplace’ where the community gathers for more than shopping.

So, the notion of ‘community engagement’ has been recognised by the good development managers I have worked with for more than a decade, so nothing new there. But there is a problem.

WHO exactly is going to do the community engagement thing?

A small team (3 – 10) people working for the landlord can’t realistically do it. Not only do they have a lot on their plates already, but they also change over as they progress in their careers.

The 95 per cent of retailers who are national brands who occupy the rest of the centre are filled with retail employees who are typically casual or part-time and they don’t care.

The national retailers themselves (and their full timers) can’t practically implement a localised community engagement strategy for every store in their network.

That leaves a handful of independents who live and work in the local community, and who have a vested interest. But they don’t have the resources (time/money) nor the skills to do it effectively, assuming they even recognise the importance of it.

Jon Bird writes about the Westfield 2028 vision, and says:

“But the real advances will come in the form of reimagined retail. Stores will be stages, delivering “classroom retail” – showcasing the makers and processes behind products and brands.”

My question to the landlord is this: If you build the stage, who will come to act on it?

Sure, the viewers will come if the entertainment is entertaining, but actors don’t work for free.

Dennis Price: Co-Founder at ganador.com.au and yearone.solutions.

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