31 May 2018   

5 min read
The shopping centre is evolving from a place to choose products to a community hub where people go to meet, eat, and be entertained. A sign of these changes are the temporary entertainment spaces popping up in malls offering music, art and family fun.

One example of this is the recent teaming up between Stockland and the Australian Museum to tour a life-sized, one-of-a-kind model of the mighty prehistoric Sarcosuchus Imperator around Stockland’s NSW centres.

Then there’s the Stockland Harrisdale Arts Festival, which showcased local art displays and fun arts activities, and Meccaland, Australia's first beauty festival, held in Melbourne in April, by Mecca. Behind this trend is the competition landlords face to get people into their malls as consumers embrace online shopping and look for convenience, says Danny Lee, senior research manager at CBRE.

According to Danny the renewals of large centres over the past five years have been driven by a need to attract millennials. “They are very tech savvy and can do a lot of research online, so you have to provide them with something that makes them want to come into a centre and it comes down to the experience provided.”

Entertainment is part of this experience, but as we move to more high-density living, people are increasingly looking to feel part of a community. “By providing this, landlords are increasing their foot traffic and dwell time. The longer you spend in a mall, the more you will spend,” says Lee.

Natalie Hoitz, director of urban design at Urbis, sees the trend of temporary entertainment spaces as a “light touch response” to the larger and more capital intense investments landlords are making as they shift their focus from solely shopping to a more multi-functional social meeting point for the community.

“They are trying or testing out light touch, temporary activation measures before making more serious investments in creating entertainment and leisure precincts,” she says.

“And, by ensuring that there is an ever-changing and diverse canvas of activity, landlords are increasingly drawing people into their centres and ensuring repeat visitation.

“There are some great Australian and international examples of where this occurs,” says Hoitz. “Consider the new Westfield Century City shopping centre in Los Angeles, which just completed a massive $1 billion overhaul. The new incarnation features flexible outdoor space with top-end production amenities, including lighting, sound, and back-of-house-facilities that can cater for a diverse range of programs.

“Indeed, shopping malls are being designed to attract events like concerts, festivals, premieres and other face-to-face gatherings,” says Hoitz.

“This comes at a time when centres are also adding a range of other services, such as health and wellness, gyms, and childcare centres that provide the centre with a broader range of touch points with the community. “These uses also enable greater levels of activation across a day and into the evenings,” says Hoitz.

She adds that centres are becoming more locally relevant – ensuring that the activation, retail, entertainment and dining is tailored to the local market.

Plus, they are looking for broad market segment appeal. “Delivering something for all age groups and demographics is a really key to success,” comments Hoitz.