Shopping Malls Need to Get With the Program

I am not a regular mall shopper, but it is hard to buy gifts at the 7-11 so I have made a few forays

Shopping Mall
Shopping Mall

into different malls this past week in the name of market research.  Malls seem to be stuck in time and have made little or no progress in improving my shopping experience.  I found so much room for improvement that I knew I could not be the only one that is frustrated with shopping malls in general.

A recent survey survey by the Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Verde Group found more than 80 percent of shoppers experienced at least one problem during their last mall visit.  As if the economic woes are not enough incentive to make shopping malls wake up there are many other problems to be dealt with.

The study, which looks at shopper loyalty and purchasing decisions, reveals a level of dissatisfaction among shoppers with malls that is larger than they have with individual stores. “The lack of ‘discovery’ or the ‘what’s around the corner’ factor seems to be sorely missing for shoppers who want to enjoy themselves at the mall,” says Wharton Professor Stephen J. Hoch, and faculty director of Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative. “These findings should be a call-to-action for mall developers who are failing to quench this thirst for excitement. Malls can’t be mundane in this economic climate, they need to excite shoppers from the moment they arrive versus make them want to turn around and leave.”

shopping-mall-21The study also reveals that on average, customers will drive 25 miles to their mall of choice and visit five stores. One in three will spend at least two hours in the mall, and the majority will spend $150 during their visit – only one in ten do not make a purchase. If a shopper is happy with the diversity experienced during their visit to the mall, they will tell their friends about it which is obviously a major benefit.

“Eighteen to 24-year-olds have the most problems shopping in malls, particularly with parking, boring shopping experiences, and too many teens hanging around,” adds Paula Courtney, president of the Verde Group. “They are also the most likely to notice the lack of effort demonstrated by the mall to be environmentally conscious. Twenty-five to 40-year-olds, on the other hand, spend the most time and money in the mall. For this group, their top problem relates to the limited selection of restaurants available.”

So what do the Verde Group and Baker Retailing Initiative suggest:

Discovery – range of stores and restaurants, uniqueness of products, special events, environmental consciousness, an attractive and inviting appearance

Comfort – sufficient cleanliness, proper maintenance, easily located washrooms, ample security

Accessibility – ease of finding parking, ability to find parking where wanted

Navigation – ease of finding the mall, understanding the mall layout, adequate signage

In my estimation the suggestions are the same as what was needed years ago and mall owners have largely ignored the consumer.  With more business failures and less retailers it might force the landlords to make significant changes to keep people coming back and to ensure a new generation of shoppers find them relevant.

Shopping Mall Trivia

  • Eight of the ten largest malls in the world were in Asia in early 2008 and several more mega-malls in China and the United Arab Emirates are under construction.
  • The largest mall in North America is the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta. It includes over 800 retail stores, over 110 eating establishments, 58 entrances plus nine world class attractions and a 335-room hotel.
  • Mall of America is the USA’s largest retail and entertainment complex. The 4.2 million square foot complex is home to more than 520 world-class shops; Nickelodeon Universe® the nation’s first Nick theme park; Underwater Adventures® Aquarium, a 1.2 million gallon walk-through aquarium; a 14-screen movie theater and more.
  • Mall watchers have predicted that within the next few years, seven of the ten largest shopping malls in the world will be in China alone.

Top 5 Largest Malls (based on GLA, the area of interior floor space leased for retail shops, services, restaurants, and entertainment, such as night clubs, video arcades, and cinemas.)

  1. South China Mall – Dongguan, China – GLA 9.6-million sq. ft. – 1,500 stores
  2. Jin Yuan (Golden Resources Shopping Mall) – Beijing, China – GLA 7.3-million sq. ft. – >1,000 stores
  3. Dubai Mall – Dubai, United Arab Emirates – GLA 5.9-million sq. ft. – 1,200 stores
  4. West Edmonton Mall – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – GLA 5.3-million sq. ft. – 800 stores
  5. SM Mall of Asia – Pasay City, Philippines – GLA 4.4-million sq. ft. – 600 stores

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