Anyone who believes the shopping mall is destined for imminent extinction should fly to Chengdu. In this city of around 14 million people, near the Tibetan plateau, 31 million square feet of mall space is due to open in June 2013. The New Century Global Centre will fill a space almost three times the size of the Pentagon.
Head of Retail for KPMG in the UK
Yet in the US, where only one new enclosed mall has opened since 2006 – in Salt Lake City – many analysts believe these temples to consumerism will soon be rendered obsolete by e-commerce, with one report predicting that a tenth of the country’s 1,000 large malls will fail in the next decade. So what is to be done? The consensus is that malls need to do more than house a collection of shops, however desirable the brand or the stock. “Retail is not just about shopping”, says Paul Smith, marketing manager for Trinity Leeds, a new retail development in the UK’s second city. “It’s about taking the best from online, the high street and events venues and bringing it all into one place.” That not only includes food, entertainment and childcare but so much more. David Roberts, chief executive of global architect Aedas said recently: “In 20 years you will find stores that sell books and DVDs replaced by sites that give people a reason to go to the mall... galleries, education centers and health and spa treatments.” Roberts’ analysis is reflected in many of the malls which will supply an unprecedented 344 million square feet of new retail space across the world in 2013.
Seven of the ten largest developments are in China. In Europe, Turkey is building the most new malls this year. Many malls are increasingly likely to be reconfigured to suit particular needs. Landmark in Hong Kong has dedicated an entire floor to men’s retail. Metrostav has spent US$3.6m on a new mall in Prague that caters exclusively to men. In Buenos Aires there’s a Museum for Children in the Abasto shopping center, while the water park at West Edmonton Mall in Canada boasts the world’s biggest wave pool.
Digital marketing specialist Mitch Joel feels that only those retailers who offer the full range of experiences and who “evolve to meet the changing urban environment” will be successful. In his Six Pixels of Separation blog he explains how he sees a viable future for shopping malls, provided they ensure e-commerce becomes a “horizontal activity” that is integral to the business.