by Andrew Martineau
As shopping centers, who have already been in the process of reinventing with a growing list of store closures, over-leveraged retailers, bankruptcies, delayed effects of the Great Recession, and increased online shopping try to survive. This pandemic comes out of nowhere and makes the once-popular Experience Economy, void of the very Experiences that made it a strategy for driving traffic and attracting and retaining customers.
Over the last couple of years, the industry had some great success with adding more entertainment options to their merchandise mix in the form of bowling alleys, restaurants, bars and other socially-oriented businesses. However, in a pandemic such as this, those businesses will find it hard to survive even when the malls reopen, and people start venturing out again.
What will be the new addition to the tenant mix that would offer something to consumers that they can’t obtain online? I believe that the new category is Wellness.
If there is one thing that the Coronavirus has taught all of us is that being healthy is more important now more than ever. The very nature of a hugely contagious virus affecting the innate mechanisms that make us social beings is a wake-up call for everyone, especially ones with largely manageable pre-existing health conditions like diabetes or being overweight.
According to a report by Collier’s International titled The Fountain of Wellness in Retail: Transforming the Consumer Healthcare. The Wellness category in an ideal position to become the mini anchor to backfill vacancies and reinvent the merchandising program of many shopping destinations. This developing category may be the best antidote to an industry plagued by store closings, lost business and revenue, as people make the decision to do more of their shopping online and leave in-person experiences to those that are necessary or something that can add to their general Wellness.
In a recent ICSC Research for which Engine Insight surveyed 1,004 U.S. Adults. Fifty-seven percent welcome shops whose products are mainly infused with CBD, such as oils and lotions for personal care and Wellness. Fifty-five percent welcome legal cannabis dispensaries for all types of use. Thirty-two percent of consumers surveyed would be more likely to visit a shopping center if its tenants include a CBD shop, and thirty-five percent would be more inclined to visit a shopping center with a legal dispensary. Read the full report from ICSC Research here.
Being confined to your home for this long certainly has people itching for socialization, but where that socialization happens is going to be something that will happen organically or directed depending on what the options are. B and C malls (if they haven’t already done so) should double down on adding Urgent Care Clinics, Dental Offices, Grocery stores and other essential services to their tenant mix. The multi-category successes of entities like Walmart and Target during this pandemic are great examples of this - with health, food and cleaning supplies categories making up for losses in other areas - and what is a shopping center if not a multi-category shopping destination.
In addition to yoga studios, gyms, psychologist offices, physiotherapists offices, massage businesses, wellness spas, supplement shops and CBD-product merchants, malls should look at adding more health-related tenants and activities to the mix.
Food Courts with more healthy foods should be considered, along with adding mile marker floor decals for in-center walking and converting parking on the perimeter of centers to green space for rediscovering how much taking a walk in nature renews our spirits and nurtures our soul.
It is a fact that many cities and urban areas across the country suffer from a lack of green space, and if a visit to the local mall can provide that. It would certainly be something to invest some time and energy into - think grabbing a meal from the food court and eating it outside with nature, or doing some exercise in the morning and grabbing a smoothie or doing some shopping in the mall afterwards - the possibilities are endless, and the future is Wellness.
By Andrew Martineau
For an industry in a state of flux and shopping center developers and management companies putting more emphasis on the creation of experiences to counter the many sales lost to e-commerce, the Coronavirus is an unexpected and somewhat devastating new development to throw into the mix. Not only are fledgeling B and C malls struggling as it is, but the pandemic has also forced shopping centers to close doors until further notice. This development will force any mom-and-pop retailers who never developed an e-commerce business, with no means of revenue and the big box stores teetering on bankruptcy to look at this as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Furthermore, when will shoppers trust that it is ok to gather in groups of more than ten people and will they have any money - with the many people losing their jobs to do any shopping at all?
With all the uncertainty in the air, many brands have stopped paying rent and haven’t ordered new product - and even if they wanted to order products, most factories in China have been closed down during China’s fight to stop the spread of the virus. It is no secret, that China manufactures a large amount of product for the world’s brands and independent retailers, and this shut down. However, temporary has caused some significant breakdowns in the supply chain with products not being manufactured and spotty travel, causing delays in shipments. When you think that the US accounts for more than 80% of toy imports from China, profitable brands like Hasbro and Mattel will see considerable losses, the longer the pandemic remains uncurable.
Many global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) have been quickly shifting orders to secondary or tertiary suppliers to make up the missed delivery from their primary suppliers and moving some core business priorities back to their factories. Some have looked into retooling their production systems to make completely different products. Automobile manufacturer Shanghai-GM-Wuling (SGMW) who quickly retooled its production system to produce medical face masks has generated rewarding revenues and positive reputation for the company. In China, some companies have charted buses and even airplanes to bring back workforce from remote regions to help with the backlog of orders halted as China works on mitigating the spread of the virus. Others have started to adopt automation to make up for labour shortages, and others are employing technology to train new employees quickly as there is a dire need for more hourly workers. Global supply chains are also looking into designing their supply chain models to include KPI’s for resilience, responsiveness, and reconfigurability.
If China is rebuilding its global supply chain to be more resilient, flexible, and automated, so should the US. It is undoubtedly an excellent time to build a competitive, flexible and automated manufacturing industry here in the US to help shield from the possibilities of a pandemic like this shutting down the US economy in the future.
All is not lost for every brick-and-mortar retailer though. Companies like Walmart and Target who buy products in mass quantities will see supply chain disruption like other retailers, but find increased revenue in the areas of grocery and disease-fighting essentials that consumers have been buying in mass quantities. This multi-category portfolio and evolved omnichannel operation should help balance the losses in other regions and prove valuable for them in their financial expectations for 2020. The lesson here is having a multi-category portfolio, and an evolved omnichannel operation is key to survival for anyone that has a brick-and-mortar location or has hopes of opening one.
I have always been a believer that the luxury market is recession-proof, and the move by many shopping center developers to focus on the 1%, and adding more luxury retail to their flagship stores is a no brainer in a once-booming economy. With luxury spending by Chinese customers accounting for 33% of the global market, a slowdown in consumer purchasing in China, in addition to the cancelling of many of the world’s popular fashion weeks, the devastating effects on the global economy and the usually recession-proof luxury market is incredible. Not to mention the fact that luxury brands have had a history of strong sales in their brick-and-mortar locations as customers interested in purchasing a $20k Louis Vuitton bag don’t usually make that purchase online.
Times like this is when innovative technologies tend to emerge. Still, the only thing I’ve seen is online small business lender Kabbage launching a platform that allows consumers to buy gift certificates to support local small businesses during the coronavirus crisis. Certificates purchased through Kabbage’s platform can be redeemed by consumers at any time. After each gift certificate purchase, Kabbage will hold up to 10% of the settlement funds in reserve until the gift certificate is redeemed. The only caveat is, if the small business does not survive, the gift certificate cannot be redeemed or refunded.
And last but not least is the popularity and growth of delivery services, with many people forced to stay-at-home and trying their best to avoid going out for anything. This trend is certainly not going to disappear anytime soon as getting people to go back to brick-and-mortar stores is going to be an ambitious proposition, especially for non-essential items.
I know I’ve been spending more time purchasing items on Amazon in the last couple of months than I have in my entire life.