Making retail malls great again

By Feily Sofian / The Edge Property | March 3, 2017 9:30 AM SGT
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The secret to happiness is to spend money on experiences and not things, says Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. One of the enemies of happiness is adaption, he says, and new things are exciting until we adapt to them. Experiences, on the other hand, are said to linger in our memories, resulting in storytelling and conversation, and enhancing social relations. In fact, the anticipation of an experience can be gratifying by itself. Experiences also elicit fewer social comparisons than material goods.
Experiential retailing has been touted as the antidote for dying retail malls. Malls, as such, need to reposition themselves from the “places to buy” that they are now to “places to be”, says Stephen Lampert of retail and brand consultancy FITCH.
The responsibility of creating positive experiences for shoppers lies with retailers as much as with landlords. Lampert names Lenox Square in Atlanta, Georgia, the US as an example. The mall positions itself to attract well-heeled, active and affluent women in the northern Atlanta suburb and some retailers pull out all stops to engage them. Williams-Sonoma, a premier retailer in home furnishings and gourmet cookware, holds regular cooking classes while ivivva, a sports apparel label created by lululemon, has a list of fitness events on its Facebook calendar.
Boutique fitness studios, artisanal culinary workshops and halls of learning, plus instagrammable moments, would take shopping experience to a new height and bring some lustre back to jaded malls
Photos: Y7 studio (left) and Williams-Sonoma junior cooking class
This might pose a conundrum to mall landlords, who would be confronted with the choice of offering bigger space to a few retailers versus letting them out to more retailers, which could generate higher rents. The key, perhaps, is to work with retailers that Lampert calls “temples for devotees”. A classic example is the Apple store, a place dedicated to serving customers and where product sale is secondary. Apple also has a host of events and workshops on its calendar, including Discover Apple Music, iPhone Photography and Power Your Workday with iPad.
Malls with an Apple Store are said to...