Placemaking: a mutual responsibility
It is widely accepted that good placemaking is the key to a successful retail destination, especially in the current climate. The responsibility for placemaking has traditionally fallen on the shoulders of landlords, who actively entice people to a development. But now, as the sector competes against e-tail, retailers themselves cannot afford to be complacent. It is vital that they recognise the value in providing shoppers with more than just the traditional in-store experience. By learning from what is happening externally and sharing responsibility for placemaking, retailers can enhance the overall customer experience and give shoppers another reason to visit the development.
The quality of a place and the variety of activities on offer are fundamental components to why people choose to visit places. Landlords have already reacted to this and are providing more facilities and outside entertainment for visitors, but retailers can help enhance these and make them more memorable for visitors. In-store events can be held to coincide with what the landlord has organised outside, and retailers can provide equipment or products to make the event as enjoyable as possible. We know that placemaking works but the key to getting the most out of it is an integrated approach.
A forward looking move is to start providing dedicated non-retail space in-store. Rather than focus on direct financial returns for a square foot, the value of simple dwell space should be recognised. If the store itself was considered to be more than just a retail space, but a place for people to spend time, retailers should see an increase in footfall and time in-store. A café in a bookstore or a seating area for customers to check emails gives the customer an opportunity to spend time in a store and, ultimately, to build an association with that retailer.
By taking this ethos and partnering with each other and sharing retail space to hold joint events, the retailer also has an opportunity to be associated with creating community, which will help people to engage. This needn’t be an imposition to retailers; it can be a strategic business too. By partnering with a complementary offer, customers can access a larger selection of products in one location.
Experience is what sets retail destinations apart from the convenience of online shopping - it is this that draws people to the development, and it is this that makes them return. If retailers took greater responsibility for their part in forming this experience and worked more closely with landlords and other retailers, the online experience would not be able to match what bricks and mortar can offer.
Author: Chris Wieszczycki, Principal Director at tp bennett