Can malls, retailers compete with online shopping

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Malls should watch out. As online shopping expands, the landscape for malls will change.

Today, malls fulfil a variety of purposes. They are, of course, shopping destinations. They are entertainment venues, with cinemas and restaurants. But they also function as public spaces, gathering points for families and friends to meet, stroll about and talk. As online shopping begins to eat into the profits of retailers in physical spaces, the malls and their tenants will have to adapt.

How? The most obvious way, which is already happening, is to become entertainment venues. Walk through any of the big malls there will be something to see other than the shops. Malls  now often have fashion shows. Malls will need to figure out ways to bring people into the mall – increasing footfall, in the industry’s jargon – that don’t rely on the retailers who have rented space.

The retailers, too, will have to do this, moving from merely showing items for purchase to running events that actually bring people in. Mixed-use development, in which malls host other businesses such as sports venues, for example, will increase.

We would also like to see an increase in community connections at malls. This could take many forms, perhaps allocating space for pop-up stores – those outdoor markets that flourish during the cooler months could perhaps come indoors during the summer. Malls may also want to go the other way, offering space to online-only retailers to come in for a month or two. And in the future, new malls might have to be smaller and more locally focused.

For years, retailers have been haunted by the thought of Amazon using its technological prowess to squeeze them into powder. That battle has mostly played out on Amazon’s home turf, the world of online shopping.

Now the fight is coming directly to retailers on actual streets around the globe, where Amazon is slowly building a fleet of physical stores.And while most of the attention has been focused on Amazon’s grocery store dreams, the company has a more ambitious collection of experiments underway . If those experiments work -and there is no guarantee of that -they could have a profound influence on how other stores operate. Over time, they could also introduce new forms of automation, putting traditional retail jobs in jeopardy.

 

 

 

 

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