We have been told that the shopping malls have no future. That is false. Shopping centers are one of the most promising formats that exists. Only that the shopping malls of the future will be different from the ones we know today. They will look more like Walt Disney than Walmart.
But as I always say in my classes and conferences: flee in terror of all the unique definitions of the “store of the future,” and of the “future consumer” with which they constantly bombard us with (take a look at the big North American consultants). In the future there will will be many type of shopping malls of the future, not only one type. But I sense a series of global trends that will happen: shopping centers will be more and more entertainment centers. The square meters dedicated to the sale of products will decrease in favor of the square meters dedicated to the sale of entertainment. To say this is not to say much, or at least nothing new, since we have been seeing glorious examples for more than a decade, such as the mythical West Edmonton Mall in Canada:
If up until now they are places where to go shopping and spend time, now they will be places to go enjoy, interconnect with the brands, and maybe buy something physical (which will not be the main objective). It will be more of a retail to do things, than a retail to buy things. In other words: the square meters assigned to the sales of tuna fish and toilet paper will be the square meters of theaters or extreme sport activities. The meters of Zaras will decrease and three star Michelin restaurants will emerge.
In the future there will be more square meters than shopping malls than those of today, though they tell us the contrary. There will be less shopping malls, but they will be much bigger and complex than those today. They will be like microcities: we will see hotels, coworking spaces, residential areas of high standing, business schools and universities, high class restaurants, theaters, concert areas, waterparks, theaters of the XXII century, animal farms, and farms where fruit and vegetables will be cultivated and the direct sale to the consumers, etc.
We will see shopping malls where they will open areas for farmers and markets where they can sell their products directly to the consumers, without intermediaries. We will see bee hives and flower fields inside shopping centers.
On the latter we are already seeing the birth of memorable shopping centers, such as Funan in Singapore, with an urban farm of 5,000 square feet, located on the roof, and where visitors can see how vegetables are produced and harvested.
Or their fantastic proposition to introduce a bicycle lane that runs through all the shopping mall:
We will see shopping malls so impressive that you will have to pay to enter, like as you would pay to enter a theme park.
We will see places that will will advertise their brands but where nothing will be sold but that a cooking or DIY classes will be given. Teaching will be the best brand loyalty formula.
We will see museums arrive at the shopping mall. And we will see traveling exhibitions. We will see Amazon and Alibaba invest in shopping centers and have their own line of experiential shopping centers. Alibaba is already at it, and I think it will be one of the major shopping center operators in the future.
There will be a shopping mall tourism in the future: some of the most visited places in the cities will be some of its shopping malls. Many of these shopping malls will be connected to airports, or train and bus terminals, so that they cannot be reached by other means and thus take care of the sustainability of cities.
There will be waterparks, and themed restaurants no yet imagined.
We will see shopping malls focusing 100 percent on pets. Or shopping centers focused on population niches: for children, for the elderly. Themed shopping centers: for vegans, for athletes, for certain religions. We will see underground shopping centers, We will see Walt Disney open themed mini-parks in shopping centers … etc
We will see how the best footbol, baseball or basketball stadiums are built inside shopping malls in the future. We will see the Olympic Games in action inside some huge macro mall.
We will see aquatic tennis courts. The theme park shopping center. We will see that what customers will look for in these stores (which will always sell products but to a lesser extent) will relate to brands, and in most cases, customers will not leave loaded bags, but they will have them delivered directly at home.
We will see aquatic tennis courts. The theme park shopping center. We will see stores that will still be selling products, but to a lesser extent: for the customers to relate to the brands will be the main objective, and in many cases, de customers wont leave the shopping malls with very heavy bags: they will be delivered directly home.
We will see Cityland in Dubai with a garden of 150 million flowers.
And we will see how the Cirque du Soleil will open permanent headquarters in the shopping malls.
There are proposals like DUBAI SQUARE of more than 8 million square feet of commercial space, which equals 100 football fields together. With an investment between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars. Inside, the biggest Chinatown of the Middle East. Waterpark. Sports Stadium. Luxury Hotels (1.563 rooms). More than 10.000 private residences. The main objective is to capture the attention of the 2.5 billion people who are only 4 hours away by plane from Dubai.
We will see Sport Society open, the biggest sports center of all times, open in a shopping mall, with three floors with a total area that equals 12 football fields: they will dedicate the bottom floor to celebrate sporting events, and the other two floors to sporting brand stores and restaurant and coffeehouse chains.
Other embryonic projects show us other clues of how the different shopping centers of the future will be. Not only is what happens inside, it is also what happens outside. How they will integrate with the landscape in a sensational way. The current Fontvieille shopping center in Monaco will undergo a dream transformation. The Government of Monaco has just approved the project. A futuristic structure with a transparent facade, Mediterranean vegetation, levels coded by colors and wavy curves.
Another day I will talk about how we will get to these shopping malls, in what means, and how these shopping malls will be governed by a sustainable economy.
(Part of a conference I gave in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, for the National Association of Shopping Malls. ACECOLOMBIA. With new updated data)
Author: Laureano Turienzo. Business Advisor & Consultant.