Four out of the five most common problems in US shopping malls reflect a need for elements that encourage greater exploration, such as a wider range of restaurants, a more diverse range of retailers, and a general sense of newness or uniqueness, according to a survey by the Baker Retailing Initiative at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the Verde Group.
The study, which questioned shoppers about their retail loyalty and purchasing decisions, revealed an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with shopping malls that eclipses any problems they have with individual stores.
"The lack of 'discovery', or the 'what's around the corner?' factor, seems to be sorely missing for shoppers who want to enjoy themselves at the mall," said Wharton Professor Stephen J. Hoch, faculty director for Wharton's Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative. "These findings represent a call to action for mall developers that are failing to quench consumers' thirst for excitement. Malls can't be mundane in this economic climate. They need to excite shoppers from the moment they arrive."
The study found that, on average, customers will drive up to 25 miles to their mall of choice and visit five stores. One in three customers will spend at least two hours in the mall, and the majority will spend an average of US$150 during their visit. Only one in ten visitors do not make any purchase at all. If a shopper is happy with the diversity experienced during their visit to the mall, they tend to tell their friends about it afterward.
The team at the Verde Group and Baker Retailing Initiative have compiled a list of key areas to address to help mall developers and marketers, including:
- Discovery - the range of stores and restaurants, uniqueness of products, special events, environmental consciousness, an attractive and inviting appearance;
- Comfort - sufficient cleanliness, proper maintenance, easily located washrooms, ample security;
- Accessibility - ease of finding parking, ability to find parking where wanted;
- Navigation - ease of finding the mall, understanding the mall layout, adequate signage.
Interestingly, 18 - 24 year-olds reported having the most problems shopping in malls, particularly with parking, boring shopping experiences, and too many younger teens "hanging around".
According to Paula Courtney, president for Verde Group, this key consumer group is also the most likely to notice any lack of effort on the part of the malls to be environmentally conscious. Conversely, 25-40 year-olds tend to spend the most time and money in shopping malls. This group's main problem related to a "limited selection of restaurants".