How innovative retail can save China malls

May 10, 2016 / By  

Innovative retail has appealed to our sense of wonder, wowing us with a whole new world of shopping experiences. By embracing technology and experimenting with new concepts, we have been offered everything from virtual fitting rooms to pop-up stores. At the same time, hybrid stores are blurring traditional retail boundaries, increasingly encouraging us to eat, drink, and be merry – all while we shop. Retailers have never presented such fun and exciting events to miss.

In mature retail markets, the list is growing: Domino’s Pizza is delivering orders by robot in New Zealand; Crocs is sending shoes to customers in Tokyo via the world’s first drone-operated in-store delivery system; active holiday specialist Neilson is using virtual reality to thrill extreme sports-seekers; athletic apparel retailer Lululemon has brought the design lab to the store, where they actually make clothes on-site in New York City; Eataly has opened stores that are part-restaurant, part-supermarket, part-tasting host, and part-school with classes that give you the lowdown on Italian food and culture; outdoor store Globetrotter has rooms that let you test winter coats in minus 30 degree Celsius-temperatures before you buy; while fast-food chain Burger King and coffee giant Starbucks have turned select locations in the US into bars at night to encourage more customers to stick around.

As we get busier and more selective about how we shop and what we buy, retailers will need to provide us with more attractive offers to win over both our time and money. This is not just true in developed-country markets, but also in China. Cadillac is making the most of pop-up locations around the country to showcase its shiny cars, while The Hatchery is providing Beijing with a “culinary incubator” to seasonally introduce foodies to new restaurant concepts.

The more innovative the store, the better the chances the retailer has at building consumer-communities – or “fan followings” – to excite shoppers. At a time when physical retail in China is up against increasingly fierce competition from the 3 Os (online, overseas, and outlets), retailers need to be more innovative than ever to draw consumers back into their stores to push up sales.

Arguably, online retailers have entered the physical realm as some of the biggest innovators around. Vintage-inspired fashion boutique Modcloth plans to further ramp up visibility by launching a pop-up store tour across the US this summer. Even Amazon – widely blamed for the demise of the traditional bookstore – is attempting to reinvent the space with its first physical bookstore in Seattle – and is rumoured to be ready to open hundreds more in the US.

Indeed, more retailer innovation in China could just be part of the answer to getting Chinese consumers excited about shopping at malls again – and more importantly, serve as a much-needed boost for shopping centre performance. Landlords in China, too, need to do their part to support innovative retailers – by providing a clean, inviting, and quality environment that will entice people to stay longer – linger even – and spend more.

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