We recently received an ambitious brief for a global brand intending to enhance their offer in the Middle East with an experiential brand home that can cement their already strong relationship with the local audience. One anchor of the brief is the acknowledgment that a visit to the Mall remains a strong draw in this region and culture. This continued love of the mall is something that some UK or US shoppers and commentators may find slightly alien, especially considering all the current woes surrounding ‘established’ mall models, but is it? And if it is, how can it be rekindled?
There is absolutely no denying the power of the Mall in the Middle East. The families, residents, and visitors here rely on the air-conditioned comforts of the Mall environment to allow them to gather and socialise for long periods of time. It’s a social hub where shopping is a positive distraction alongside the wider hospitality and entertainment options together with their family, friends and colleagues. It feels like our own memories of the behaviour in malls ten to fifteen years ago.
The striking success of the Mall has exported from the US to Europe, India, China, Australia, Brazil, and around the world, with Mall culture now stronger than ever in some regions as the more traditional model struggles.
The continuing love affair with malls is something some may find strange, but it shouldn’t be surprising
Around the world, new Mall models have evolved. More ambitious and more immersive than anything we’ve seen before, and the influence of this evolution is growing. New developments planned in Vancouver and Toronto aim to redefine these Canadian cities. Not content with the traditional definition of the Shopping Mall, these developments will attempt to rejuvenate the cities they are housed in. Living, working, eating, learning and of course, shopping are all included, with mixed-use cultural venues like theatres, exhibition halls, cinema, and sports facilities and stadia key components. The ambition that has been expressed across Asia and the Middle East is coming to Canada, but in a very Canadian way with careful consideration for both the established and newly welcome migrant population. It is perhaps no surprise that the Vancouver redevelopment is being built to appeal to a more global, and specifically Asian, population.
The new model is expansive and fresh, with as much or more outdoor space as indoor space, blurring the boundaries with the local street-scape. It is ecological, flexible, multifunctional, and relevant. The model has evolved.
Perhaps this new thinking can re-engage people so familiar with the Mall that it has become redundant? Rekindling our desire for planned social space as epitomised in some of these new and planned spaces. Brands, like our new client, will welcome a resurgent Mall culture, it gives them another opportunity to re-engage and enthuse their audiences.
Here’s just a few that give a glimpse of this new future -
A refreshing take on the term ‘retail therapy’ with an emphasis on therapy and wellness. Specifically aimed at the Millennial and Gen-Z demographic, the emphasis is on nature and rest - with retail almost a side attraction. With close to 50% of the space created as ‘rest areas’ - including an impressive 11,000 sqm of garden space, including 12 metre high waterfall and a 3,000sqm triple-height indoor park, titled the Sounds Forest, with 30 trees, grass, flowers, and plants. The space also contains an art gallery and food and beverage offers and also the retail offer. This space acts as an antidote to the hectic and urban Seoul landscape, creating a new and calmer place for people to gather, socialise and relax.
The Platform LA
Neither department store nor mall, The Platform LA mixes traditional and new retail strategies. A curated collection of retail offers and food outlets, connected by tree-lined streets, the development is designed to appeal to its local demographic. A new part of the model is tenant fees, it offers smaller brands a physical outlet, a higher profit margin and more control over merchandising and better information. A new model of collaborating thinking to build a more diverse, sustainable, and community focused retail offer.
A huge mixed-use redevelopment project, Oakridge in Vancouver will create a new sustainable model for suburban mall redevelopment. Alongside the retail offer, there will be affordable housing, office space and over 100,000sqft of public amenities including elements such as a community centre, daycare and library. A 9 acre rooftop park links the different spaces with a network of pedestrian pathways promoting physical activity and creating opportunities for community interaction. A new sustainable city neighbourhood, totally people-centric in its conception and design.
Broad Marsh Nottingham
The ambition is to reimagine a part derelict city centre mall to bring people together, and it’s not just for retail. Its aim is to breathe new life into the central location, creating a space that has the diversity and vibrancy that is now missing in many city centres, with a new broader mix of facilities and activities
District 2020 Dubai
Going even broader is District 2020, to be built at the Expo20 site in Dubai, and positioned as a ‘city of the future’. It aims to meet the demands of a new global economy and foster community, innovation and talent, all supported by the latest advances in technology and human-centric design.