The modern retail landscape has undergone significant transformations over the last couple of years due to the rise of the digital age, significant changes in consumer behaviors and drastic economic shifts exacerbated by the pandemic. As a result of this complete retail metamorphosis, property owners must be willing to pivot rapidly to meet evolving consumer demands and adapt malls for years to come.
I am excited to share that my team and I at Coldwell Banker Commercial recently published The Trend Report, a comprehensive, in-depth look at some of the retail commercial real estate trends in 2023, and an essential tool in navigating today’s complex CRE landscape. The bottom line is that even though the mall landscape is tumultuous, malls can still thrive if property owners are willing to understand and adapt to changing consumer behaviors and preferences.
The Mall Landscape of 2023
With the convenience and ease of online shopping where everything you could ever want is at your fingertips, consumers have started to reevaluate their shopping habits. Now, more than ever before, people want personalized and effortless shopping experiences, which has turned malls into more of a social and entertainment space for consumers instead of a retail destination.
Rethinking Design, Experience & Engagement
Some of the ways that mall owners can adapt and evolve to these changes in consumer behaviors is by emphasizing experiential offerings, such as dining, entertainment and unique in-person experiences. For example, mall owners can capitalize on experience-based offerings by repurposing vacant retail spaces into pickleball courts, attracting a diverse crowd but also fostering community engagement. Enhanced dining options are another key tool that property owners can use to draw visitors in; food halls have become increasingly popular, offering a variety of cuisines and creating a social dining atmosphere.
Sustainability has also become an increasingly important factor for consumers and if mall owners adopt eco-friendly practices, such as energy-efficient lighting, waste reduction and green building materials, they are likely to better connect with consumers. In the same vein, mall owners can revitalize common areas within malls by adding comfortable seating areas, interactive displays, and green spaces to encourage visitors to linger and socialize.
Beyond dining, entertainment and unique in-person experiences, mall owners should also consider investing in mixed-use opportunities, such as incorporating housing, co-working spaces and health-care facilities, creating a new retail landscape altogether. This mixed-use transformation of malls is not only about revitalizing the mall environment, but it is also about meeting the pressing needs of the communities they serve. From affordable housing and life sciences facilities to senior housing and co-working spaces, these diverse avenues of transformation promise a more inclusive and multi-generational mall experience.
As evidenced in The Trend Report, malls are not just shopping centers but rather they are important community spaces that offer people a lot more than just retail therapy. The retail environment of today is drastically different than in years past; that is why it is essential that property owners are willing to see the way forward. They must embrace this retail transformation by meeting the evolving demands of consumers through innovation, diversifying their offerings and fostering meaningful experiences, so malls can continue to be vibrant community hubs for years to come.