How emerging trends in retail and technology are shaping a new type of shopping mall.


With the ever-expanding world of technology, all sectors of our society are forced to change and evolve to fit the mold of what the future generations will want and need. With this comes a drastic shift in consumer patterns and retail demands. We have touched on this a previous blog titled, “Is the Death of Brick and Mortar on the Horizon?”. Although we explored whether or not brick and mortar shopping is coming to an end, we have yet to dive into exactly how the shopping mall experience needs to change in order to continue to survive.

In the below article, we will share four changes that we believe need to be made in order to maintain the life span and longevity of the ‘Shopping Mall’.

  1. Experiences over material objects
  2. A shift in the traditional anchor stores
  3. Welcoming the concept of ‘pop-ups’
  4. Locality and convenience

Experiences vs. Material Objects

Fresh food market

With millennials now becoming the driving force for many shifts in cultural trends, we see a transition from the importance of material things towards an emphasis on experiences. The importance of life experiences is now valued higher by the younger generation than that of something materialistic. It is imperative that malls begin to incorporate this concept into the designs of shopping centres. Consumers need to be enticed to visit the malls for other reasons aside from the purchase of material goods that they can now so easily buy online. The chairman of JGA, Ken Nisch states, “Retailers have to give people something to do, then they will shop. But shopping can’t be the thing to do.”. This says so much about the altering narrative of modern-day consumers and what they are looking to gain out of the retail experience.

In order to provide this alternative retail experience shopping centres must incorporate various forms of entertainment, education, and services. Things like fresh food markets with a diversity of vendors that offer different products, services, and experiences are a great way to attract a wide variety of consumers. This leads us to number two on our list of changes that must be made by retailers to keep shopping malls alive and well.

The New and Improved Anchor Stores

Anchor stores have been a staple fixture in shopping centres since the first mall in North America opened its doors in 1956. Retailers such as Hudsons Bay, Sears, Target and Nordstrom, along with many others, have acted as the bookends for malls across the United States and Canada for decades. In recent years, we’ve seen many of these companies move to locations outside of malls, completely rebrand their company or in the case of Sears, go bankrupt and shut their doors for good. Anchor malls are supposed to be what attracts consumers to smaller retailers within the shopping centres, so what went wrong?

We believe that the issue is a direct effect of what we speak about in the section above. These stores are not selling any items that consumers cannot purchase online or in a more convenient way. Anchor store must make the shift to a more varied experience focused services. Curating a mix of culture, activities, and interests in one shopping centre will attract diverse and varying consumers. This will expand the visitor base and create a stronger tie between the consumer and their community. Incorporating anchor stores that support health, education, community involvement, and the arts and culture will provide the experiences that consumers are yearning for.

Restaurants, bowling alleys, fresh food markets, and health and wellness centres are examples of some of the newly emerging anchor stores malls have begun to incorporate. If someone uses the gym that is located within a mall they may see the convenience in shopping for items they need on a daily basis from retailers within that mall. The same thing can be said if they are meeting friends for a night of bowling or for drinks at a restaurant. These types of anchor locations will draw visitors in, heightening the possibility that they will purchase goods from other retailers within the mall.

Embrace the World of ‘Pop-Ups’

Pop-up shop sign

With the rise of digital technology taking over the retail world, both online shops and brick and mortar retailers must make changes to accommodate the consumer’s needs. Although online shopping does have the convenience factor over traditional forms of shopping, it lacks the personal connection to its consumers. In order for shopping centres to maintain relevance and keep the attention of a newer generation of consumers, they must accommodate the expanding world of pop-up shops.

Pop-ups were created for the purpose of providing online retailers a chance to connect with their audiences personally. It also provides an opportunity for online retailers to minimize risk by testing the market for brick and mortar retail locations. In order to have a truly successful retail corporation, many believe you not only have to have a great brand and digital presence, but also a true connection to your consumers. This connection to customers can be built over social media and digital content, however, nothing connects people more than face-to-face interactions.

pop-up shop in mall

Pop-ups are not only a benefit to the online retailer but also shopping centres that are looking to offer visitors exclusive experiences and new to the market products. It presents a higher risk for shopping centres than online retailers because of the potential to not fill these pop-up spaces, however, the benefit of having this service highly outweighs the detriment. As we spoke about in the first point, providing new and exclusive experiences will draw more consumers into malls. Pop-ups are short term, exclusive and always presenting new products and material. Many pop-up brands also host opening parties and events that draw larger audiences into the shopping centres they are located within. Overall, we look at pop-ups as a win-win for both online and brick and mortar retailers.

Location, Location, Location

Gone are the days of heading to the mall for the afternoon with friends strolling in and out of shops. With this new generation of shoppers, convenience is their top priority. As seen with the shift to online shopping, consumers no longer dedicate an afternoon to shopping malls, let alone an hour. Location, convenience, and accessibility are key factors when determining where a person will shop.

outlet mall

We have seen a rise in outlet malls and shopping plazas in the last decade and the reason for this is solely convenience. Consumers much rather park outside the store they are interested in shopping at, opposed to entering through a large anchor store, then having to search for the specific store within a mall. Plazas and outlet malls allow the consumers to locate the store they are interested in visiting from the exterior, park in the direct vicinity of that store and gain easy access to the interior with as much convenience as possible. We believe that this type of mall architecture will continue to be on the rise in the coming years.

With major changes evolving the world of commerce, retailers must get on board to stay relevant or jump ship and go down with the past. Above are our four critical changes that must be made to shopping centres to keep them alive in this new era of retail and consumer patterns.