This may seem blindingly obvious but there is a simple reason why shopping centres are reducing the space devoted to standard shops and creating more entertainment - footfall is down.
Shoppers are no longer inspired by simple shopping and no amount of advertising is going to correct that. But modern retail thinking suggests there are other things that bring consumers to retail centres – things like concerts, arts centres, spas, fitness clubs, children’s activities, fine dining – and the list goes on. Things that create a desirable link with customers, and help form a bond, perhaps a community bond, that makes a centre able to satisfy other needs. Importantly these services provide a level of leisure and entertainment that can never be satisfied online.
QVM is experiencing the same decline in “shopping activity” and that is why trader numbers are falling. QVM has very successfully enhanced food and entertainment in its Night Market schedule, but the daytime activity remains a challenge, at least in the Upper Market. String Bean Alley is an interesting exercise. It has the potential to create something new and interesting for the Day Market, and it fits in well with Night Market activities.
But the bigger picture for the Upper Market is a major exercise. It requires intense retail thinking and probably thinking that is driven by new learning. There is a huge amount of new learning and experimentation going on right now. Retailers around the globe are spending millions on new ways of exciting consumers and making shopping (sorry, “retail experiences”) more convenient and desirable.
To some extent that future is out of the hands of individual traders although the search for new entrepreneurial ideas, and general excellence in retailing, should remain the aim for every trader. But amongst traders there are real frustrations with things like stall gaps, and when times are tough, time is an enemy. It might be helpful if we could start the conversation on how we curate a better market right now. There are plenty who would put their shoulder to that cause.
By Greg Smith