Consumers Are Seeking Irresistible Experiences at Shopping Malls

April 4, 2016

Consumers continue to shift their buying habits online, placing a greater burden on stores in malls to revamp and enhance the shopping experience.

Although shoppers are feeling the pinch of stagnant wages, they are still heading to the malls because people are “social beings and require human contact,” said Peter Zaleski, an economics professor at Villanova School of Business.

“Malls will recover, but those that flourish will be the ones that continually renovate and continue to offer a new or unique experience,” he said.

Sales in the retail industry, excluding cars, gas stations and restaurants, are projected to increase by 3.1% in 2016, which is higher than the ten-year average of 2.7%, said the National Retail Federation, the Washington, D.C.-based retail trade group.

Customer Experience Ranks High

Online purchasing is catching up steadily and shows no signs of retreating, accounting for half the growth in the amount of spending by consumers, said comScore, a Reston, Va.-based company which tracks consumer behavior.

Brick-and-mortar stores, especially in malls, have to rely on providing an upgraded experience whether it is with better deals, customer service or entertainment.

“Retail stores that flourish will be those that place an emphasis on customer service,” said Zaleski.

The shuttering of many department stores, including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears and J.C. Penney’s, is likely to continue despite the fact that they were well-known retailers who served as anchor stores in malls, which used to lure shoppers in droves. Since Nordstrom has focused on customer service, it has “suffered less” than other large retailers and is planning a number of new store openings over the next two years, Zaleski said. Macy’s began 2016 by announcing 36 closures.

“Retailers no longer view internet shopping as a competitor, but as a complement,” Zaleski said.

Convenience for shoppers remains a tipping point, said Douglas Baldasare, CEO of ChargeItSpot, the Philadelphia-based provider of secure cell phone charging stations for retail stores.

“Consumers expect supreme convenience, because if they’re going to take the time to shop at the mall, they want speedy service, instant availability of a broad assortment of merchandise and fast checkout like mobile payments,” he said. “The challenge for malls is to really deliver an environment that is irresistibly entertaining and insanely useful.”

Entertainment and Servic