Experiential Retail: The Shopping Centre’s Saving Grace

By JOEL TATLOW

EDMONTON, AB-Ten years ago, shopping centres were considered the eminent North American social gathering place; the “new Main Streets of America”. The mall was originally conceived of as a community centre, in which a public could gather for shopping, cultural activity and social interaction in one singular location, and at the shopping centre’s prime in the 1990s, malls accounted for over 50% of all retail dollars spent.  Despite the early optimism surrounding the shopping centre, in 2018, North American malls are struggling. Shoppers are lured away from the vast, taxing conglomerates by promises of Prime delivery dates, free returns, and a simplified shopping experience. Malls are no longer perceived as the gathering places they once were; Transactional purchasing has replaced the romance of brick-and-mortar.  Objectively, one-click ordering has effectively dated the in-mall shopping experience. My Summer Stretch Experience has been spent suggesting and implementing antidotes to this very dilemma. As a Marketing Intern at one of Canada’s most productive shopping centres, my focus has been on returning a sense of shared community to our largest consumption spaces. Experiential retail is the practice of adding features to shopping centres with the goal of creating an entirely holistic experience for consumers. Art exhibits, VR activities, and in-mall sports activities are all pertinent examples. As opposed to focussing solely on sales as a measure of success, experiential retail efforts attempt to return malls to the community gathering places they once were. I’m so proud and excited to be Stretching myself at the forefront of a new trend in retail consumer behaviour, and can’t wait to see what else I learn over the course of my summer internship.

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