How to Increase Retail Foot Traffic and Avoid Becoming a Ghost Town
We’ve all seen it in the news, retailers have been announcing store closings left and right. For years people have been saying that brick-and-mortar retail is going to die sooner rather than later. Working in retail design, I like to believe these retailers don’t need to die off; however, they do need to adjust to changing demands of customers to increase retail foot traffic.
In many cases, it’s the older enclosed malls that are struggling to stay afloat once these retailers shut their doors. So you might ask, what are the newer town centers doing differently to be so successful? Simply put, town centers are embracing the idea of “live, work, play” and providing exciting destinations for living and entertainment.
If an enclosed mall still has the right surrounding demographics, what can they do to avoid becoming a forgotten ghost town and allow developers to see a return on the investment?
Below are five ideas for increasing retail foot traffic and staying relevant in today’s retail world:
1. GET LOCAL
Get involved in the local community. Use large common areas for farmers’ markets or pop up shop for local crafters, designers, and even musicians. Millennials are all about giving back to the community and being involved; if they have an opportunity to support a local cause, designer, or farmer, you better believe they’re going to do it.
2. GET CREATIVE
Empty space in the mall? Start a studio space for artists & designers. It’s a great way to provide an incubator space for designers – and who knows, maybe they’ll become popular enough to open their own storefront within the mall!
3. GET FIT
Imagine the possibilities of an empty anchor space – yoga studios, rock climbing, spin classes, kick boxing. Fitness has become more of a priority for many Americans, and if you can get people there for a workout, they’re likely to stop into the mall for a quick bite or to pick up the latest workout gear.
4. GET TECHY
Create a tech lab for startups and entrepreneurs. Not only does this provide a community space for people to develop ideas and build businesses, but the mall offers a great benefit to the entrepreneurs: people to test their products. A mall in San Francisco opened a similar concept, Bespoke, over a year ago and has seen a significant increase in shoppers with the help of this space.
5. GET LIVING
Millennials, and even many Boomers, are reverting back to walkable communities and looking for places that provide a true “live, work, play” environment. So why not turn that empty anchor space into micro apartments like one of America's oldest malls did? Or create an assisted living facility, providing seniors easy access to shopping and entertainment.
Today, a mall needs to create and provide unique experiences for shoppers. If an existing enclosed mall still has the demographics, but continues to struggle, then it’s time to re-market the square footage. As we are all well aware, online shopping creates less of a reason to step foot inside an actual store; so why not create an exciting space within the mall other than retail? Think outside the traditional retail box, and create destinations for living, working, and/or recreation.
Long story short, it’s time to give customers a compelling reason to visit the mall, rather than buying a new shirt and snacking on a food court hot dog.
by Jessica Neal
Jess is a driven project manager focusing on retail and mixed use environments. She has a love and talent for bridging the gap between architecture and interior design. When she's not at work, she's likely thinking about or planning her next trip; her favorite vacation spot is Dublin, Ireland.