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.