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Malls to get even more “mega” says researcher

Malls to get even more “mega” says researcher

The traffic chaos and shopping frenzy that marked the opening of the Sylvia Park mega-mall in Mt Wellington is just a sign of things to come, predicts retail researcher Associate Professor Andrew Parsons.

Dr Parsons, from Massey University’s Auckland campus, says New Zealand is likely to follow overseas trends, with even bigger malls attached to big box complexes, more entertainment, and add-ons such as gymnasiums, swimming pools – and even schools.

He says developers closely follow the needs and changing shopping patterns of customers. “Malls have developed as large covered areas that provide people with a pleasant, safe environment – away from pollution, politics and the weather. “But the catch is that such environments can be very sterile and lacking in excitement. You can stand in a mall and not know where you are – you could be anywhere in the world for that matter.

“Increasingly, people live by themselves and work in an office space by themselves. Going to a mall is one of the few ways available to interact with other people, to sit and socialise. Mall developers are tapping into this. They’re are also aware of the growing popularity of on-line shopping and ‘warmer’ shopping experiences provided by farmers’ markets, for example.

He predicts retainers and developers will counter these changes by building bigger and providing unique, interactive experiences, with retailers letting people try out products in context. “Nike Town in the United States, for example, has full-sized basketball courts in its shop, so that customers can put on the clothes and the shoes and then have a go on the court before they buy them. Some golf shops already have mini driving ranges in store. Extend that to other products and you have a less passive shopping experience.”

Dr Parsons says in the future malls may even have schools attached. “There are already crèches and pre-school centres for the children of both staff and customers. Why not schools? Overseas malls now have swimming pools, adventure parks, mini golf – the sky’s the limit. At the University of Alberta, where I worked for a time, the business school was attached to a mall which contained levels of shops and restaurants as well as student apartments.”

He says new developments like Sylvia Park may seem bright, big, new and modern “but we’re only just scratching the surface of what’s to come in the future”.

Ends

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