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A New Spring for Shopping

A new spring for shopping design

As we move into Spring here in the Southern Hemisphere, the weather’s getting warmer and there’s optimism in the air. We’re looking forward to re-establishing our human connections, our social interactions. The prospect of an escape from the lockdown cycle and a physical reunion with the rest of the world. And we’re going to go shopping.

But what kind of shopping?

On one hand there has been a move back towards a very efficient, transactional kind of shopping. The big weekly shop has returned as a way of minimising time in store. And of course there’s been the massive move online with physical stores acting more as fulfilment centres. Checkouts are faster, and click-and-collect and drive-through more efficient. And definitely low-touch. Delivery has cut out the interaction with stores altogether.

But shopping is also social. It’s what people miss. It’s not like all of our shopping centres are going to disappear. People will flood back. What will their expectations be? What will have changed?

The next generation of shopping environments will be designed by looking a lot more closely at customers’ behaviours, wants and needs – not at current shopping patterns, but how people want to live their lives in the future. They can get efficiency and easy fulfilment from their online interactions. What they want from physical retail is experience. The whole mix of retail in shopping centres could change.

The size of retail chains is polarising. The big national ones are getting bigger and stronger but at the other end of the scale are the smaller, independent entrepreneurs building offers based on growing local, making local and buying and selling local. We’ll see a move towards ultra-local, with seasonal produce coming from community gardens and even people’s backyards.

Some stores will be hybrids based on two complementary businesses sharing overheads. A bike repair and juice bar. A dry cleaner and shoe care. Custom furniture and home electronics. We’ll need new retail leasing strategies to accommodate their needs. Maybe shorter leases and plug and play spaces to minimise fitout costs.

With people emerging wild-haired and rag-nailed from lockdown, there will be a resurgence in personal services, but there will also be new categories of service retail. Remember the stigmas once attached to now mainstream mall offerings like hearing clinics and laser hair removal? Mental health might be the next category, with mindfulness clinics, counselling and psychotherapy as mainstream offerings in shopping malls.

Our skills in creating excitement and heightened emotion for customers will be reverse-engineered into creating calming and supportive environments. Some centres will become totally centred around health and wellness.

Most of all, customers will appreciate a more open shopping experience. Crowd-free, spacious and fresh. More and better use of outdoor space, and a hospitality-style service approach to check-ins and hygiene.

Many of these trends were on their way anyway. It’s not an apocalypse for retail, more of an asteroid. The strong will get stronger, the nimble will get creative.

The new retail must be more social, more purposeful, and kinder. We’ll need it.

Looking to refresh your retail space? Contact us today.


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