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Insight: leisure experiences driving shopping mall agendas

Enhancing the shopping experience through leisure and hospitality offerings is being increasingly acknowledged by shopping centre owners as food and beverage looks set to become the new anchor tenant usurping department stores.

SHOPPING CENTRES & RETAIL PARKS

Insight: leisure experiences driving shopping mall agendas

Speaking at the MAPIC, the annual retail property exhibition in the South of France, Jonathan Doughty, global head of foodservice at ECE, told delegates: “Food has become the new anchor. A Five Guys burger outlet can draw in more people than a department store nowadays. These were the anchors but food is their replacement. It’s just that it has not been recognised yet by developers.”

This view was shared by Didier Souillat, CEO of Time Out Markets, whose food market in Lisbon had 3.1 million people visit last year and can have a peak of 17,000 people dining on a Saturday.

“We are becoming an anchor. Landlords know what we can bring to a development. But we are 3,000 sq metres - with up to 800 seats and 25 food providers - so we are a big monster and it takes two to three years to get these things off the ground,” he explains.

A key aspect of the Time Out Markets model is flexibility with the food retailer tenants because customers now want a constantly changing experience: “We do not lock in people in with five-to-10-year leases. We give one year concessions. They can move on and we can bring in new ones to replace them if it does not work and we pay the capex on the unit.”

The importance of a varied food offering is reflective of a broad move by developers to enhance the overall mix within their malls. Souillat cites a development in Miami that is anchored by a hotel and also incorporates a WeWork shared working space as well as a large Italian food hall. “There are many components to it and this is the way [shopping centre] concepts are moving,” he says.

Doughty adds: “Whereas previously a shopping mall might have had 300 shops and a few restaurants now it is about a more complex mix of different things. Developers are combining lots of different elements.”

At the extreme of such moves is the under-construction American Dream development just outside New York City. Dimitri Lalagos, senior Vice President of Triple Five in the US that is building the new concept says three million square foot development will have 50% of its space devoted to entertainment, which will includes food and beverage as well as an amusement park, Lego Discovery Centre, Sealife Centre, Kidzania and Dreamworks Water Park.

“We previously had 17% assigned to entertainment at our other malls but it’s changing. This trend is here to stay. The big question is what real estate percentage to give to food and beverage? With department stores failing then food and beverage is a natural back-fill for that space,” he suggests.

Nathalie Depetro, director of MAPIC, says owners of malls have had to review their offers as a result of digital shifting an increasing amount of sales online. We have therefore seen leisure grow inside malls. She says the prediction is that food and beverage will reach 20% of square footage in malls by 2025 - from a current 6-7% within Europe. This present figure itself represents a significant increase on five years ago when Depetro says the percentage was nearer zero.

The debate about the optimum levels of food and beverage - and other leisure activities - in malls currently rages in the industry. It is certainly under close scrutiny at mall owner McArthurGlen. Michel Reuvers, director of hospitality at McArthurGlen Group, says less than 10% of sales are generated by food and beverage but that 35% of the quality perception of their malls comes from food and 60% of visitors spend some money on food and drink.

Although he says there is talk in the industry of 25-30% given over to the category Reuvers believes this could be too much when taking into consideration that the market for food and beverage is “over-developed” on the high street and a growing number of operators are beginning to struggle.

More focus at McArthurGlen is being given to the better handling of peak demand periods - with 60% of food and beverage sales coming at lunchtime. “With only 10% of our space given over to food then no wonder there are some troubles with food. It’s all about peak handling, with good solid operations and efficient layouts. We need to build our restaurants accordingly,” he says.

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