Rethinking retail spaces

Reawakening the high street with retail experiences

The accelerated shift to a more digital world has changed consumer behaviours – and so, looking to the future, retailers will need to rethink their use of space to accommodate, while also fighting to remain commercial. The key to this, says Aaron Shields, executive director for experience strategy at global brand transformation company Landor & Fitch, is to focus on experience.

“With shopping mostly limited to online, pent-up demand is being released and retailers are enjoying the big return,” says Shields. “While the future looks bright for bricks-and-mortar once again, shopping centre landlords and developers are hyper-focused on boosting footfall, providing shoppers with new reasons to visit.”

He believes that attractions beyond dining and shopping will key to capturing visitor interest for longer, such as Landsec’s recently-announced touring beauty-themed event, visiting its key retail destinations in Leeds, Glasgow and Cardiff, and the recently-launched M&M’s flagship in Berlin featuring shareable moments through locally-inspired features, including interactive clubbing pods and Mauerpark karaoke point.  “These incentives broaden out the target audience by attracting different age groups in a bid for growth,” he says.

Another big trend influencing retail space today is the focus on ‘liveability’. Seven in 10 of the world’s population are expected to live in cities by 2050, and as cities become more populated, he says there is increased emphasis on enhancing liveability standards, which retail spaces can deliver on.

He notes the City of London as an example for putting a mixed-use retail and residential approach at the heart of its post-pandemic strategy. Plans were recently announced to build at least 1,500 homes in the area in the next decade to revive the area and its identity as a place to live. The City is now calling for owners, occupiers and employers to make unused office and retail space available for creative commerce, to enhance the liveability, but also to attract visitors and other businesses in the future.

Shields also says that social hotspots for human connection will play a central role in the way retail spaces are put together in the future: “Retail spaces that can put socialising and exploration at the heart of their retail space (safely) will reap the long-term reward. Providing a space for social interaction can be a route to greater revenues for retailers in the future, offering soaring dwell times, loyalty rates and shareability opportunities.

“The changes society has undergone recently are among the most significant in human history. The way we live and work are irrevocably altered. For retailers, this is both daunting and exciting. Those who can adapt and offer what today’s consumers are looking for stand to not only survive, but thrive.”

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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