Ellandi’s Jaspal Singh talks commercialisation for innovation and experience
Historically, commercialisation has served as a means of generating extra income for retail destinations. But with increasing focus on experience for shoppers, and flexibility for retailers, it has become an important part of a holistic mall strategy.
Jaspal Singh, asset manager at Merry Hill, says that smaller, more nimble options like concession stands are a practical way of bringing in new independent operators: “We’ve seen increased interest from this group following the pandemic, with many people looking for alternative careers,” says Singh. “We also know that shoppers want more of this kind of retail – with 38% indicating they’d like to see more independents in our recent Real Shopper Survey.”
For start-ups, he says, these spaces offer a less risky way of trying out an idea and building up a local following. For landlords, it is a way of incubating successful concepts that may go on to take larger and more permanent stores. “At Merry Hill we’ve got some great local success stories of this happening – from local cheese sellers to bubble tea makers,” Singh tells.
Inevitably, not all new retailers taking short term space thrive in the long term – and for some this is part of their business model. “Seasonal operators are the obvious example here,” he says. “With the flexibility of this format allowing them to operate on a temporary basis.”
Other concepts the Ellandi-owned destination has seen start out strong are products that are highly trend orientated, for example toys and snacks like cookie dough and cake pops. Singh says these concepts are often suited to a short but intensive trading lifespan. Commercialised space serves plug this short term demand, creating an adaptable variety of tenants.
He says it is not just new retailers that commercialisation can bring variety through: “We’ve found mall space is a great way to encourage innovation from established retailers showcasing new concepts. Its physical prominence can grab shoppers’ attention, acting as a satellite location away from a retailer’s established position or generating interest in the area immediately outside their store space.”
This prominence is also what creates experiential potential for commercialised space, he explains. Tech and gaming specialists like Nintendo and Samsung use shopping centres as a physical environment to engage and connect with their audience, often as part of national campaigns.
“We’ve actively moved away from promotional operators that detract from overall shopper experience, for example utility providers with aggressive sales techniques can have a negative impact,” he tells. “Outdoor space – particularly as shoppers are still mindful of gathering in crowds indoors – can transform a centre from traditional retail to leisure and experience destination.”
The flexibility and position of these spaces are making them effective test beds for understanding markets, concepts and their longevity. “They can be continually reconfigured and refreshed,” Singh adds. “With our evolving retail landscape, these are valuable qualities in their own right. As part of an integrated strategy they can support the longer-term evolution of a shopping centre, and even its retailers.”
This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.