How often do you hear traders blaming the lack of cover, air conditioning, or untidy toilets for poor customer patronage – “Why would customers come to the market and get rained on or blown away when they can go to an enclosed shopping mall?”
Overseas trends point to a growing prominence of open-air configurations in their shopping centres. The factory outlet type concept is booming overseas but rather than dumb down the presentation and use factory outlets purely for getting rid of the rubbish (like they do here in Australia) they have upmarket brands and exclusive stock lines. The open air configuration tends to highlight individual brands rather than group everybody under the one roof.
A couple of years ago your writer visited such a centre in the UK. It was quite separate from traditional shopping areas (almost regional) and laid out in a street type configuration, much like a wild-west movie set. I had to battle through the odd snow drift to get to each store but discount offerings from Tommy Hilfiger, Boss, GAP and the like, made it all worthwhile. Judging by the crowds, particularly of international tourists like me, this was a successful way of retailing and it offered an air of excitement to shopping.
I can hear you saying now – “Hey! We’ve got open air retailing already at the QVM!” We may need to make a few adjustments to our product offerings and we don't have a setup like the village in the photo, but it makes you think doesn’t it? Let’s not complain about what we don’t have but accept that what do have is a distinct advantage over boring, comfort malls.