As U.S. consumers’ buying habits change in the Internet age, shopping malls are evolving as well.
Forbes reports that malls will have a different look by 2020, as Sears, a traditional mall anchor store, and other retailers, such as Toys ‘R’ Us, Radio Shack and Staples and Office Depot attempt to improve their financial health by shutting some of their stores.
A new Moody’s report, “As Retailers Reassess Store Needs, Expiring Leases Offer Potential for Cutting Costs,” examines retailers’ brick-and-mortar strategy in an age where consumers are shifting more of their buying online.
Moody’s points out that it is still too early to tell if online sales are a major factor in store closures, but what is certain is that among the largest retailers, store count growth has slowed to less than 3 percent from over 12 percent during the past three years.
“Because this trend is occurring during a period of economic recovery, it is difficult to prove a corollary between online sales and store counts, but the relationship should become clearer in the next few years,” Moody’s researchers said.
Other retailers pruning back stores, according to Forbes, include Abercrombie & Fitch, Barnes & Nobile, Express, Family Dollar and Guess.
The Simon Property Group is testing a strategy for the “millennial approach to shopping” by collaborating with style website Refinery29 to create The Shopping Block, a one-day “experiential fashion marketplace” at six of its U.S. malls.
The Shopping Block will be set up in the mall common area, and bring together a number of independent boutiques and national fashion brands. The event will feature stylist concierges and guest hosts to promote the latest fashion trends. Mall guests will also be able to get mini-makeovers at pop-up beauty bars. The event will be promoted heavily through the Simon.com and Refinery29 web sites and social media channels.
Forbes reports that malls and shopping centers are working to improve their Wi-Fi networks to offer new services to shoppers via smartphone. Simon Property Group is expanding its use of iBeacon technology, which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) to create a Wi-Fi network that doesn’t quickly eat up cell phone batteries.
One example of customer engagement over Wi-Fi is the “Dine on Time” service offered by the Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping mall. Using a mobile app or web site, shoppers can order meals from 15 food court restaurants and schedule it for pickup at the mall or for delivery within a three-mile radius.
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