Throughout this issue, in articles from Fast Food to Design, from Leasing to Legal, from Marketing to Trends and everything in between, there runs a thread, common to all topics, and it’s that of ‘community’.
Some years ago, when writing on the subject, I looked for an analogy and came up with a somewhat ridiculous hypothesis, yet it served the purpose. I imagined that in the short-term future – say within 50 years – retail no longer existed except in the form of essential goods and services. So all fashion shops, all clothing, jewellery, gifts, etc had all disappeared and instead, people spent their disposable income on ‘dancing’. I asked the question: what would happen to our shopping centres?
In answering, I proposed that they (the centres) wouldn’t disappear but would thrive just as well as they always had done. The large spaces formerly tenanted by Department Stores or DDSs would become large dancehalls with live dance bands playing, whilst the smaller specialty shops might become dance studios where one could go to learn the Cha-Cha, Tango or Salsa and the like.
The reason for the question and the hypothesis was to define the fundamental, the core value of the shopping centre; was it a retail facility or a community focal point? Yes of course, it could be both, but what was more important? What feature was more relevant to its survival? Twenty years ago the answer would have been undisputed; it was a retail facility first and if its ‘community’ attributes were virtually non existent, it would still make money (assuming the tenancy mix was good).
Over the past two decades that has changed dramatically. People have constantly increasing retail facilities from which to choose; where they buy, what they buy, when they buy and even ‘how’ they buy has few limits. But ‘social interaction’ is different; to achieve that needs a focus on design, on décor, on spaces, landscaping and so on; yet that’s just part of it.
In his article on ‘the social experience’, Kelvin Taylor looks at the link between shopping centre ‘events’ and social media; to quote him, “a retail-only experience doesn’t cut it anymore!”
In this issue, George Freney CEO of booodl, talks about the emergence of Amazon on the Australian scene. That’s undoubtedly a gamechanger as far as retail is concerned, but what are the implications for the shopping centre? Tim Moore looks at ‘the social dollar’, and examines how community focus translates into hardcore commercial reality in leasing.
This is an issue packed full of thought-provoking stuff. Take your time to read it thoroughly; move away from the rapid pace of electronic communication and 100% use of every second. Put your feet up; relax, take time out, read at leisure and absorb; there’s a lot of good stuff here – don’t just skim it!