Over the past year there has been an explosion of stores placing entertainment at the centre of their offering, from Selfridges London new workout space in partnership with Yung Club to the upcoming Santa on the Rooftop event at Fenwick Newcastle. Retailers are sharp realising the potential of creating pleasant, memorable, interactive experiences that appeal to all five senses. However, it’s not just the responsibility of the store to attract footfall, shopping malls themselves need to play a more significant role in wooing customers through their doors.
With 4.7million square metres of shopping ventures in Dubai and Abu Dhabi alone, you wouldn’t be surprised in learning that online purchasing has been slow to gain traction in the UAE. A recent report by PayPal and Ipsos suggests that online spending in the region is expected to increase to $9.8 billion by the end of 2018. Yet, despite significant growth, it remains a fact that online retail makes up only a single-digit percentage of total retail sales in the UAE.
After all, the region is home to the largest shopping mall in the world – Dubai Mall, which hosts an indoor theme park, underwater aquarium and the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. Another 8 miles north you’ll also find The Mall of The Emirates complete with the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and snow park. Such offerings go far beyond the typical shopping mall in the UK, with the majority offering a cinema, bowling alley and/or a soft play at most.
Have we come full circle?
The idea of entertaining customers is certainly not new – Hamleys, the oldest and largest toy shop in the world, has been combining retail and entertainment for years. With a live entertainer at the door, soap bubble machine and ongoing event calendars, they create a collaborative experience that asks the question ‘what can we do with you?’ rather than ‘what can we do for you?’ By creating this journey, they not only set themselves apart from online competitors whilst creating strong brand loyalty but make it practically impossible to leave without spending money.
One of the largest Malls in the UK – the Metrocentre – closed the doors on its in-door theme park Metro-land back in 2008. The UK’s largest indoor theme park at the time made way for the new yellow quadrant which hosted an array of new restaurants, a bigger and better cinema plus a bowling alley to offer the best in modern shopping. Yet, nearly 10 years on, would the modern shopper prefer a playful and engaging experience via an in-door theme park opposed to more traditional shopping mall features?
Today, engagement is serious business in retail, being playful brings brands and experiences to life whilst allowing stand-out in an increasingly digital world. Of course, not every shopping mall can be a Mall of the Emirates but a less lavish set-up can still draw in a wider audience from a much broader area. Whether it’s a special event, pop-up shop, concert or a themed/VIP night at an eatery, shopping centres as a whole can certainly be doing more to provide a more dynamic and lifestyle orientated experience for all.