The rise of next-generation retail: changes in shopping center design

As reported by the the Wall Street newspaper in November, retailers were on track to open more stores than they had closed in 2021 for the first time since 2017, according to an analysis of more than 900 chains by IHL Group.

Despite lingering fears about e-commerce contributing to the demise of physical stores and the struggles induced by last year’s pandemic, it is clear that the doomsday forecast has underestimated consumer demand to visit physical stores – and the creative ways in which the space can adapt to meet changing habits and desires.

More and more retailers are re-evaluating their brick-and-mortar store models, and at the same time, consumers have a pent-up urge to go back out into the world and shop in person. This combination breathes new life and expands the design parameters of stores and retail centers.

Below we explore a some of the shopping mall design trends to watch out for and how designers and developers can stay on top of emerging retail trends.

Intentional community spaces: the environment as an anchor

Creative and intentionally programmed common spaces are becoming the main draw of many shopping centers. These can be seen as shared ‘lounges’ for the community – and are particularly appealing to customers after being collectively trapped within their own four walls for months.

Often, if a center does not have features such as a safe place outside for children to play, an alfresco dining area, or comfortable seating between stores, consumers will intentionally seek alternatives that offer these amenities.

The ability to monetize these spaces creates many benefits for mall owners and retail tenants by helping to attract people, keep them there longer, and come back for more.

For example, Nadel recently designed a mall in Southern California to be equipped with several outdoor amenities, which increased both time spent at the center and spending with nearby retailers. This was achieved by strategically infusing relaxing gathering places with beautiful outdoor equipment and furniture and attractive landscaping. These simple design considerations are easy to incorporate into design and planning, but they make a huge difference for consumers looking to achieve a complete shopping experience.

About Glenda Wait

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